It’s easy to spot the climate and energy regulations that Donald Trump will be most eager to eviscerate in his first 100 days in office. But InsideClimate News reports that it may be harder than the president-elect thinks to take fast action.
“Easing fossil-fuel energy regulations is at the top of President-elect Donald Trump’s to-do list,” ICN reports. “But getting rid of rules in Washington, D.C. is not as quick as saying, ‘You’re fired,’ in a reality TV show.”
ICN lists nine regulations that will likely be on Trump’s hit list, beginning with President Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan and the August, 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule, a measure that extended the Clean Water Act to cover streams and wetlands.
“Opponents claimed—falsely, according to the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]—that the agency’s new jurisdiction encompassed ditches and puddles,” notes correspondent Marianne Lavelle. But “energy producers strongly oppose the new permitting and regulatory requirements, and the state of North Dakota took the lead in a court challenge that has blocked its implementation in 13 states.”
Other Trump targets will include U.S. methane regulations, oil rig blowout prevention rules, protection for the endangered Greater Sage Grouse, regulations on hydraulic fracturing and coal ash, and safety provisions for fracking workers exposed to crystalline silica.
Trump showed some of his typical bombast earlier this week, describing his energy priorities during a video presentation on his first 100 days. “I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs,” he said. “That’s what we want, that’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
ICN notes that he didn’t specify what he meant by “clean” coal, and the “many millions” of jobs he claims he’ll create will be easy enough to measure in the months ahead.
But not so easy if the process of unwinding existing regulation proves to be tougher than Trump imagines.
“To undo a regulation that has been finalized, the Trump administration would have to begin a public notice and comment period all over again, address those comments and publish an analysis to support its decision,” ICN reports, citing regulatory experts. “It is a process that often takes years. The administration would face lawsuits by environmental and public health groups as well as states and industry groups.”
On a parallel track, “the Trump administration also could face litigation for any failure to regulate. For example, supporters of environmental regulations like the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan can argue that because the Supreme Court already has ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, the law gives EPA no choice but to act to protect health.”
The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council is one of the environmental organizations gearing up for the fight. “We’re prepared to use every tool available to protect these environmental safeguards that the public supports,” said NRDC Director of Government Affairs David Goldston. “Laws were created to enable these protections to be put in place and defended,” he added, and “we will defend them.”
This week, Politico Morning Energy reported that U.S. environmental groups, including NRDC, are already fundraising on the election result and bulking up their legal teams in anticipation of the court battles ahead. “Apparently, the sixth stage of grief is activism,” said Environmental Defense Fund’s Sam Perry.
The ICN article takes a close look at the factors that could make different Obama-era regulations more vulnerable to rollback, or less so.