Trump Environmental Rule Rollback — Tracking the Trackers

August 15, 2017

TipSheet: Trump Enviro Rule Rollback — Tracking the Trackers

Partisans may debate whether the Donald Trump presidency has accomplished anything — but when it comes to rolling back environmental rules, the administration’s actions have been many.

In fact, there have been too many for the mainstream media to keep track of or focus on. It’s the sort of thing you need environmental journalism for.

Enter the trackers.

At a July 6, 2017 SEJ forum in Seattle, for instance, Obama-era EPA Region 5 Administrator Dennis McLerran offered a lightning tour through the wreckage. His list of Trump executive orders stands as a checklist of many of the key environmental rollbacks (or attempts at same) to date. You can find a transcript of his remarks here and a write-up here.

Much of this is stuff you will not see on the evening cable news shows. Executive orders can get complex and technical and don’t always have immediate effect.

Another collection of rollbacks came from the GOP-controlled Congress during the first months of the Trump tenure. Congress had this authority under the Congressional Review Act — but only with rules issued late in the Obama administration. These got even less attention, but were signed by President Trump and had big impact.

Fortunately, a number of media outlets and advocacy groups have made efforts to round up all the rollbacks for tracking purposes. Even the SEJournal Online had a go, if only prospectively.

A roundup of regulatory tracking reports

The TipSheet hopes to round these up here, in effect tracking the trackers. While many of these reports were quite complete when published, not all give an up-to-date picture.

  • National Geographic: "A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment." Michael Greshko, Laura Parker and Brian Clark Howard have stayed up to date, and offer clear context and explanation of the various actions.
  • New York Times: "23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back in Trump's First 100 Days." Nadja Popovich and Tatiana Schlossberg put this out May 2. It clearly explains 23 major actions, both rulemaking and legislative.
  • New York Times: "Trump Discards Obama Legacy, One Rule at a Time," by Michael D. Shear, is accompanied by an interactive graphic enumerating all the 2017 efforts to roll back rules with the Congressional Review Act. Of the 33 rules challenged under the CRA, 20 related to environment or energy. The Times says 14 of the 33 rules were reversed.
  • Los Angeles Times: "Trump's Environmental Rollbacks Are Hitting Major Roadblocks," by Evan Halper, is uniquely valuable because it reminds us that a big fraction of Trump's rollback efforts are stalled, often because they have been challenged in court. It was published July 11, and almost none of the roadblocks have been resolved.
  • Washington Post: "How Trump Is Rolling Back Obama's Legacy," by Juliet Eilperin and Darla Cameron, is currently updated through July 31. It is very thorough, and goes beyond actions by Trump himself to include agency actions. It includes failures and actions in progress. While it goes beyond environmental health and safety, its tally shows the dominant fraction of deregulation is in this area.
  • The Guardian: "Trump's Alarming Environmental Rollback: What's Been Scrapped So Far," by Oliver Milman. This fairly thorough list of rollbacks can be handy because it is arranged in chronological order.
  • Sabin Center for Climate Change Law: This unit of Columbia University has done a "Climate Deregulation Tracker." It is limited to climate impacts, but that is really its strength. It goes way beyond EPA to include other agencies.
  • American Action Forum: The title, "Tracking Regulatory Modernization in the Trump Administration," reveals that AAF is a conservative group that looks at deregulation through a "free market" lens.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council: NRDC’s "Trump Watch" blog, while it does not try to be comprehensive, offers regular updates on a wide range of Trump administration environmental actions. It is updated often by experts who know their stuff. NRDC is an environmental advocacy organization.
  • Politico: "Inside Trump's War on Regulations," by Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook, includes an interactive graphic that breaks deregulatory actions down by subject, including environment and energy.
  • CBS News: "EPA's Pruitt Moves To Roll Back Over 30 Environmental Regulations in Record Time," by Emily Tillett, was up to date on July 3.
  • Bloomberg: "States Move to Roll Back Environmental Rules in Trump's Wake," by Ari Natter, came out on May 5. Although not a tracker, it is a useful reminder that a vast amount of regulatory rollback has been and is still happening at the state level.
  • Washington Post: "By the Numbers, Trump's Big Environmental Regulation Rollback Is All Kinds of Unpopular," by Emily Guskin, reports that as long ago as March 29, many of Trump's environmental rollbacks were not supported by the U.S. populace. She cites several polls.
  • Regulatory Agenda: This list of planned or upcoming rulemakings is issued under the Office of Management and Budget twice a year. It has been done since 1993, under a Clinton executive order meant to get a grip on regulation. Trump's OMB renamed it the "Current Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions." It is hard to go through, since it includes most federal agencies and some very technical actions. This year, however, it made news, with some headline writers calling it the "deregulation agenda."
Detail of a Washington Post interactive graphic showing how President Trump is rolling back Obama’s legacy on environment and other policies.
Detail of a Washington Post interactive graphic showing how President Trump is rolling back Obama’s legacy on environment and other policies.

* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 2, No. 31. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main pageSubscribe to the e-newsletter here.  And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.

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