Repeal of Obama-era environmental rules dominates Trump’s regulatory agenda

Environmental groups, scientists plan to hold Trump accountable.

The Trump administration released the latest issue of the semiannual Unified Agenda on July 20, 2017, which includes notices to roll back environmental regulations. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
The Trump administration released the latest issue of the semiannual Unified Agenda on July 20, 2017, which includes notices to roll back environmental regulations. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Trump administration on Thursday released its first government-wide regulatory agenda, providing a detailed look at its concerted attack on regulations, including rules that protect the environment and public health.

The so-called unified agenda highlighted efforts that the Trump administration has taken to reduce “unnecessary” regulations. Agencies have withdrawn 469 actions that were proposed by the Obama administration last fall and have reconsidered 391 active actions by reclassifying them as long term or inactive, according to the agenda.

“Just six months in office, President Trump has taken historic action to eliminate wasteful and costly regulations that have stood in the way of hardworking Americans,” the White House said Thursday in a statement.

The White House also highlighted how Trump “kept his campaign promise to coal miners” by rolling back the Stream Protection Rule. In early February, the House and Senate voted to repeal the rule using the Congressional Review Act. Trump signed the legislation on February 16.


Environmental groups have not been impressed with the actions taken by the Trump administration. In response to the unified agenda, the Sierra Club concluded the administration is taking a “wrecking ball” to many important protections and safeguards across the government.

“Six months in, and Donald Trump’s only achievements are diminishing America’s standing abroad and undermining essential protections for our families and communities at home to enrich fossil fuel executives,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement Thursday. “If you’ve been wondering why Trump is one of the least popular presidents in history, look no further than the exact things he is bragging about.”

Together with the U.S. General Services Administration, the Office of Management and Budget compiles the unified agenda on a semiannual basis. The agenda is divided by cabinet level department and independent agency.

On January 30, shortly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump followed through on a campaign promise to slash regulations by issuing an executive order titled, “Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.” The unified agenda includes lists of actions taken in response to the executive order.


The list of regulations in the unified agenda to be reviewed, revised, rescinded, or delayed is long, with the Clean Power Plan, Clean Water Rule, and New Source Performance Standards for oil and gas drilling wells among the prominent environmental rules targeted.

The Environmental Protection Agency in April announced it is reviewing the Clean Power Plan, with the goal of withdrawing the rule “on grounds that it exceeds the statutory authority” provided to the agency under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate regulation, intended to reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector, is one of the actions that the Trump administration has reclassified as long term.

Many of the actions included in the unified agenda have already been announced, although some new timelines were released. For example, the unified agenda shows the administration plans to propose a replacement regulation for the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule, by December.

On the same day the Trump administration unveiled its first unified agenda, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report titled, “Sidelining Science Since Day One: How the Trump Administration Has Harmed Public Health and Safety in Its First Six Months.” The report contends the Trump administration is attempting to delegitimize science by giving industries more ability to influence how and what science is used in policymaking and creating a hostile environment for federal agency scientists who serve the public.


“The president has made clear that he does not believe the very clear scientific evidence surrounding climate change, and he has taken actions that would dramatically hinder our efforts to fight it, including nominating Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, a nomination that I strongly opposed,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) told reporters Thursday on a conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sara Wylie, a member of the steering committee of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), said her organization has looked at how the first six months of the Trump presidency compares to other administrations that also have demonstrated hostility to the sciences.

Also speaking on the Union of Concerned Scientists’ call, Wylie said her group concluded the Trump administration’s attacks on the work of the EPA are “unprecedented” compared to either the Reagan administration or the Stephen Harper administration in Canada. “The EPA has been on a starvation diet since the Clinton administration. This could be the nail in the coffin for the EPA,” she said.

Earthjustice, an environmental law organization, said Thursday it is maintaining a database of actions taken by Trump against the environment and the status of legal efforts to counter the administration’s moves.

“Earthjustice has already met President Trump’s unprecedented attacks on public health and the environment with the full force of law,” the group’s president, Trip Van Noppen, said in response to the unified agenda. “Any time President Trump tries to cook the books or blow a hole in crucial environmental protections, we will be ready to take him to court and hold him accountable every step of the way.”