Federal Roundup for March 6

by | Mar 6, 2017

Wondering what’s been going on since I blogged about the most recent updates two weeks ago? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! This is the latest installment in our series on federal executive and legislative actions. Several new developments have cropped up and we have new updates.

New Developments

January 30

Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs (E.O. 13771)

President Trump signed this Executive Order that aims to offset the number and cost of new regulations. It says, “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination.” Many have pointed out that this provision in particular is, at best, arbitrary. As Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard Law School, points out, “Most major public health, consumer protection, workplace safety and other rules do cost money, but they also produce enormous social benefits which dramatically outweigh their costs” — citing the Clean Air Act as one such example. We will be keeping an eye on how this executive order is interpreted by federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

February 21

Automakers ask Scott Pruitt to relax emissions requirements

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sent a letter to Scott Pruitt February 21, 2017 asking him to withdraw the EPA’s new fuel-efficiency standards for future cars and light trucks. It would require 2022 to 2025 model cars and light-trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. (See also: Final Determination on Appropriateness of the Model Year 2022-2025 Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards under the Midterm Evaluation.) The Washington Post is reporting that the EPA is poised to make this concession to the car companies.

February 24

EPA delays delays mining site cleanup rule after industry objects

On December 1, EPA proposed a rule that would require hardrock mining companies to prove that they have the financial wherewithal to clean up polluted mining sites (See also: Financial Responsibility Requirements Under CERCLA § 108(b) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry.) After pushback from industry groups, EPA Administrator Pruitt directed his staff to delay consideration of this proposed rule for four months in order to gather more public comments. The rule is helps to make sure companies don’t simply abandon mines without paying their share of cleanup costs.

Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda (E.O. 13777)

On February 24, President Trump signed this Executive Order, establishing new procedures and timelines by which most federal administrative agencies must conduct their regulatory planning and review. This action essentially lays out to federal agencies how to enforce E.O. 137771 (mentioned above).

February 28

Rules for ozone, gas and nuclear published in the Federal Register

The Food and Drug Administration moved forward with new rules for ozone-depleting substances, despite President Trump’s freeze on regulations. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also moved forward with guidelines for gasoline companies preparing environmental reports. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also published new guidelines for nuclear power plants.

March 1

SCRUB Act (H.R. 998) passes U.S. House

Sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), SCRUB Act establishes a commission to identify obsolete and unnecessarily burdensome regulations to be repealed. It also sets goals for the commission to reduce costs by 15 percent and to prioritize major rules that are more than 15 years old and rules that can be eliminated without diminishing effectiveness. It passed in the House by a vote of 240-185.

OIRA Insight, Reform, and Accountability Act (H.R.1009) passes U.S. House

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), requires independent agencies to submit rules to the Office of Management and Budget before they are published — essentially giving the president tight control of the rule-making process. It passed in the House by a vote of 241-184.

OMB suggests deep cuts to EPA’s budget

The Office of Management and Budget proposed budget cuts that would reduce EPA’s staff by one fifth in the first year and eliminate dozens of programs. Specifically, EPA’s staff would be slashed from 15,000 to 12,000. The proposed budget would also cut EPA’s grants to states, including air and water programs, by 30 percent and eliminate 38 separate programs in their entirety. Programs that could face elimination are those designated for zero funding including grants to clean up brownfields sites, environmental justice programs and climate change initiatives. Any such cuts would have to be codified through the congressional appropriations process.

Take Action

March 2, 2017

Regulatory Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R. 1004) passes U.S. House

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), would require agencies to publish more detail of forthcoming rules and regulations. It passed in the House by a vote of 246-176.


Congressional Review Act put into play by U.S. Congress

The CRA allows senators and representatives who disapprove of a regulation to enter a resolution eliminating it. The resolutions require the signature of the president. So far this year, the following rules protecting the environment and human health have been targeted under the CRA:

  1. The Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule: On February 16, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule.
  2. Department of the Interior Methane Flaring Rule: The House voted on February 3, 2017 with no action so far from the Senate as of the date of this post.
  3. Drilling and Mining on Public Lands: On January 31, 2017, the House introduced a joint resolution that would repeal the rules that allow the National Park Service to manage private drilling and mining in 40 parks across the country.

Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017 (H.R. 637)

This is a proposed bill (Gary Palmer, R-AL) that blocks the EPA’s ability to address climate change. Update: There has been no congressional action since the bill was introduced. No actions taken since the bill was introduced. However, Gasp gathered more than 250 signatures on a petition opposing the bill. We sent a letter and a list of constituents to Rep. Palmer’s Birmingham and D.C. offices via certified mail last Friday (March 3) asking him to withdraw the bill. You can read our complete analysis of the bill here.

Bill to Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency (H.R. 861)

Matt Gaetz (R-FL, 1st District) introduced a bill that would abolish the EPA effective December 31, 2018. Thankfully, no action has been taken since the bill was introduced.

Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act (H.R. 958)

Sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), this bill would leave EPA with a budget of less than $1 billion. It would eliminate EPA climate change programs and would also close all of the EPA’s regional offices, halt new regulations on ground-level ozone pollution and require the agency to lease unused property. No actions taken since the bill was introduced.

We’re keeping our ear to the ground on any and all developments that could affect clean air and health in Alabama. Be on the look out for regular updates from us about legislative and executive actions that could threaten your health and environment. We will also always provide ways for you to act on any development, whether it’s positive or negative.

Finally, because these updates can somewhat feel dreary, this felt like a good time to take a music break. Here’s Amos Lee singing “What’s Been Going On” (a callback to the intro to this blog post) alongside Pete Townshend, the legendary guitarist for The Who.

About Haley Lewis
Haley joined GASP in 2014 as our programs manager and was named staff attorney in 2016. She has a B.A. from George Washington University, J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and a master’s in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Email Haley