Before cutting a red ribbon with oversized scissors Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump touted his administration’s progress in cutting regulations, saying he wants to return the federal government to the level of regulations that existed in 1960.
Over the past 11 months, the Trump administration has canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions, “more than any previous president, by far,” the president said at a White House event. “We’re going to cut a ribbon because we’re getting back below the 1960 level and we’ll be there fairly quickly,” he said.
Trump pledged to cut the Federal Regulatory code back down from more than 185,000 pages in 2017 to the 20,000 pages it was in 1960. A progress update on the administration’s regulatory rollback was contained in the semi-annual Unified Regulatory Agenda published by the White House Office of Management and Budget Thursday afternoon.
If policymakers had stopped in 1960, pollution would have kept the nation’s rivers and streams unsafe for fishing or swimming. It was a time when Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught on fire due to decades of pollution from industrial waste. Acid rain was destroying New England forests. Homes had been built on toxic sites. Cities were smothered in smog.
As a result of one environmental crises after another, the federal government implemented several important environmental regulations in the post-1960 era, including:
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- National Environmental Policy Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
Also in 1960, the United States did not have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In late 1970, the U.S. House and Senate approved President Richard Nixon’s proposal to create the federal environmental agency.
Other rules and regulations — under attack today by Republicans in Washington — that were implemented after 1960 include:
- Endangered Species Act
- National Forest Management Act
- Wilderness Act
- National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
- Federal Land Policy and Management Act
At Thursday’s event, Trump said he knows that some of the nation’s rules have been beneficial to the nation and that his administration will protect the air, water, and health and safety of workers. But since taking over as EPA administrator in February, Scott Pruitt has been waging a war on the nation’s environment.
The EPA is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to undo the Clean Water Rule. In October, the Trump administration announced plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a policy regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and aimed at reducing global warming. The Trump administration also is targeting workplace rules, including the weakening of the Toxic Substances Control Act and postponing implementation of the silica rule.
In only 10 months in office, observers contend Pruitt has done more than any of his predecessors to roll back the EPA’s crucial functions and create a culture of fear among agency employees with years of expertise in environmental protection.