Prof. James Coleman on Administration issuing fewer regulations



Trump issuing fewer regs: By design or happenstance?
Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter
Published: Thursday, June 15, 2017

(Regulations on ozone are among the Obama administration actions that have encountered resistance under
President Trump. Pixaba)

President Trump ran on an anti-regulatory platform, and so far his administration has issued far fewer rules during its first few months compared to President Obama.

According to a report released this week by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, regulations have declined 7 percent.
From Jan. 20 to June 7, 2016, Obama's team had issued 1,139 regulations and 136 significant rules. In that time, Trump has issued 1,063 regulations and 76 significant rules.

"Many of Trump's rules have been delays of earlier rules that hadn't reached their effective date, sometimes several at once, such as at the Environmental Protection Agency," the report states.

"Since rule reductions look like rules too, the reduction in regulation under Trump is more dramatic that what the raw counts depict."

But while sections of the conservative community are hailing the lack of regulatory movement as a victory, some analysts say delays may have more to do with a lack of staff and direction than fulfillment of a campaign promise.

The president issued an executive order in January tasking agencies with getting rid of two rules for every new one.

James Coleman, an energy law professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, said of the fewer rules: "You might think that it was because of the two-for-one order, which is that they're having a hard time finding pay-fors."

Coleman, however, said if agencies were working to find offsets, there would likely be more deregulatory activity, as opposed to rule stays.

"It's somewhat undercut by the fact that even on the deregulatory side you don't see quick action from the Trump administration," he said. "The administration doesn't quite know what it wants, and a lot of its positions aren't staffed."

John Graham, former George W. Bush administration regulatory chief, said it was "doubtful" the delays are because agencies have yet to find offsets.

"If the rules were started under Obama but not finished, they will be delayed until the Trump team is in place and has time to determine whether they want to complete them or modify them," he wrote in an email.

The Trump administration has halted progress on a number of environmental and energy rules, which, regardless of the reason, is making science and public health groups nervous.

"This is becoming a pattern or tactic to prevent agencies from implementing critical science-based safeguards that went through an extensive rulemaking process, essentially a situation where agency heads who are conflicted or extremely close with the regulated industries, ignoring science and the democratic process," said Yogin Kothari, Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy.

"It's something we are definitely concerned about moving forward," he said.

Upcoming deadlines for oil and gas companies to slash greenhouse gas emissions on public lands have been indefinitely postponed (Greenwire, June 14).

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had stayed implementation of a new industrial safety regulation until June 19 but recently proposed another hold lasting until February 2019 while the agency considers administrative petitions for reconsideration. That proposal is currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (Greenwire, June 9).

EPA is also giving states an extra year to meet Obama-era ozone regulations and is delaying by a year new standards on certification and training of pesticide applicators, and the Federal Highway Administration is delaying an Obama climate rule for highway planners to consider revising it.

"I like to call this the control-alt-delay tactic," Kothari said. "Anything Congress couldn't [by use of the Congressional Review Act], the administration has decided to delay."

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