The White House this morning released the new administration’s first regulatory plan, a sweeping survey for all federal agency actions.
The latest issue of the biannual so-called Unified Agenda includes mostly notices to withdraw or revise regulations, a sharp contrast to the Obama years. Plans for dozens of rules have disappeared.
The agenda details how U.S. EPA intends to withdraw the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule. The Department of Energy is considering modifying its energy efficiency standard program. And the Department of Transportation will likely not issue an Obama-era regulation to require highway planners to account for greenhouse gas emissions.
President Trump has made rolling back federal regulations a top priority of his administration. In March, he issued a memo specifically directing agencies to prioritize deregulatory actions in the agenda (E&E News PM, March 6).
Strangely, scholars note, the agenda appears to deviate from Trump’s Jan. 30 executive order that requires agencies to identify two rules for repeal for every new rule they plan to issue.
"It’s pretty interesting that I’m not seeing rules identified as offsets to new rules that would impose costs," said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.
"For example," he said, "they are listing the updates to the lead in drinking water rule with a timeline but no mention of how they will offset the costs."
The only proposed significant rules that are not deregulatory appear to be in response to litigation, according to James Goodwin, senior policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform.
He said the remaining Obama-era actions are routine, noncontroversial ones. Rules that have been withdrawn or relegated to "long-term" actions are the more significant ones.
Goodwin noted that, traditionally, the agenda has specified whether it’s the fall or spring edition, while this year is simply called "Update 2017."
"Does this imply that they’re not doing a Fall 2017 agenda?" he said.
EPA listed President Obama’s signature climate rule, the Clean Power Plan, as a long-term action with no end. The agency simply states the regulation exceeds statutory authority under the Clean Air Act.
The administration has said it plans to roll back the rule, which required states to craft plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
The Obama EPA estimated that, by 2030, the plan would bring up to $45 billion annually in net public health and climate-related benefits.
Also moved to long-term actions is a rule that would address emissions from new and modified plants. Here, too, EPA states it plans to withdraw the standards on the grounds they exceed statutory authority.
EPA is moving to extend the stay of Obama-era methane standards for the oil and gas industry until August. A federal court last week granted EPA a two-week reprieve from complying with its recent ruling that the agency lacked authority to delay the rule (E&E News PM, July 13).
The agenda includes no major short-term initiatives on air pollution. Instead, EPA will focus on tending to statutorily required responsibilities, albeit sometimes with the prodding of deadlines set by settlements.
Near the top of the list of proposed rules, for example, is the agency’s review of the primary air quality standards for nitrogen oxides.
Only last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a draft rule leaving the current thresholds in place; the final rule is due by next April, under a consent decree made final this spring in response to a suit by two environmental groups.
Similarly, EPA will be moving forward with the third of four rounds of attainment designations for the 2010 sulfur dioxide standard that is also required by a court order.
The agency said it was looking into numerous "risk and technology reviews" intended to revisit guidelines for hazardous air pollutants from various industrial emissions sources.
Those reviews are supposed to be carried out every eight years, but because EPA is chronically behind, environmental groups have repeatedly sued to set legally binding timetables for their completion.
The agency also plans to continue with a rulemaking launched under the Obama administration to spell out the requirements for state cleanup plans needed to meet its 2015 ozone standard, with the final rule scheduled to be made final next March.
The agenda notes that the final attainment designations for the ozone standard are now due by October 2018, after Pruitt recently delayed them, saying the agency needs more information. Environmental and public health groups filed suit last week to reverse that decision.
Noticeably absent from the agenda are some Obama administration rulemakings that were withdrawn soon after Trump took office and have apparently not been revived.
Those include proposed new pollution controls on existing oil and gas operations on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Utah and a final rule to tighten emission standards on grain elevators.
The agenda states that DOE is examining whether to modify its energy efficiency standard program into "a market-based approach."
The effect of such a proposal is unclear. The notice states that DOE is "evaluating the potential use of some form of a market-based approach such as an averaging, trading, fee-based or other type of market-based policy mechanism."
The agency added it was planning a proposed rule in December that would ease the application process for small-scale natural gas exports, including liquefied natural gas.
Also, several rules facing a lawsuit by multiple states are slated for final action in September. Three of those are for portable air conditioners, commercial boilers and uninterruptible power supplies. DOE originally issued standards in December but never published them in the Federal Register (E&E News PM, June 13).
Several efficiency rules on appliances are planned this year, including a standard for room air conditioners in September, according to the agenda.
DOE said at that time it would either propose and adopt more stringent guidelines or issue a determination that no amendments to current standards are required.
A final rule on gas furnaces — long a source of contention between environmentalists and industry — is scheduled for November.
DOE’s efficiency program is viewed by many clean energy advocates as critical for cutting emissions and lowering costs. The Obama administration made it a central plank of a broader Climate Action Plan.
The Trump administration proposed a 70 percent funding cut to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which oversees the rulemaking.
The Department of Transportation does not appear to be planning on reissuing a final Obama-era rule that would have required highway planners to measure and take into account the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles traveling on their roads.
The controversial metric was part of a package of performance standards the Federal Highway Administration completed in the final days of the Obama administration.
The highway agency decided to indefinitely delay the metric in May, vowing to start an entirely new rulemaking process to take comments on a possible revision or elimination within weeks (Climatewire, May 19). Democrats accused it of eschewing normal procedure in an attempt to kill the rule.
The measure does not appear on the Transportation Department’s agenda, and aides for the agency did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Drilling, land management
The Interior Department’s regulatory plans for the rest of the year largely focus on rule rollbacks that are already in motion.
Top on the agency’s list is rescission of the Obama-era hydraulic fracturing rule. The agency has been engaged in a legal battle over the action since its release more than two years ago, and the measure has never taken effect.
Interior’s rollback of the rule may be instrumental in persuading a federal court to pause related litigation. According to the Unified Agenda, the Obama-era safety and environmental standards for fracking do not reflect the policies and priorities of the new administration.
The Bureau of Land Management also wants to delay until July 17, 2019, the Obama-era rule restricting methane flaring from oil and gas operations on federal lands.
The issue has been controversial, with Democrats questioning whether the department has the authority to keep the November 2016 rule on ice after the Senate this spring voted against overturning it through the Congressional Review Act.
A proposed rule effectively suspends implementation of the methane regulation for the next 18 months. A separate proposed rule listed seeks to "revise or rescind" it.
The agenda indicates that the administration intends to move quickly in its efforts to repeal and replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which clarifies which waters are covered by the Clean Water Act.
While it does not set a timeline for a final regulation repealing the controversial regulation, also known as the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule, the agenda shows the administration plans to propose a replacement regulation by December.
This year’s agenda moves back the timeline for revising the Lead and Copper Rule, which regulates those metals in drinking water.
The Trump administration has delayed the timeline for promulgating the rule by about six months, with a notice of proposed rulemaking expected in January 2018 and a final rule expected in July 2019.
The delay comes despite mounting pressure from Congress to upgrade standards in the wake of the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis.
The agenda no longer includes a rulemaking to set new levels of coliform bacteria in water. The Obama administration had expected to release a notice of proposed rulemaking by January 2018 for the bacteria, which can contaminate water supplies through fecal matter and cause digestive problems in humans.
Coal and mining
Except for declaring the Stream Protection Rule dead, the agenda makes no mention of any regulations at Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
Gone are the Obama-era proposal to reform self-bonding — a practice unique to coal mining that allows a company to promise to clean up mines without collateral if it meets certain financial criteria — as well as new standards for coal dam impoundments, disposal of coal ash in mine reclamation and permits to avoid coal companies idling a mine to avoid reclamation.
The Office of Natural Resources Revenue plans to take final action on its repeal of new fossil fuel valuation standards for royalty purposes. Environmentalists have sued to block the change (Greenwire, April 27).
For hardrock mining, EPA is working toward meeting a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 1 for publishing a final rule for new financial assurance requirements under the Superfund law. The industry and its Republican allies have been lobbying for the Trump administration to rewrite the proposed rule or take no action.
The agenda also established no date for a final rule on new underground water protections for in-situ uranium mining, which EPA delayed in January (Greenwire, Jan. 6).
At the Department of Labor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration will see new pre-emptive workplace examination requirements for non-coal mines, which the Trump administration delayed this year, go into effect Oct. 2 (Greenwire, March 24).
The agency will also continue gathering public input until Jan. 9, 2018, on addressing concerns about miners’ exposure underground to diesel exhaust linked to lung cancer (E&E News PM, Jan. 11).
The Trump administration does not specify when it will act on a proposed crystalline silica dust rule despite acknowledging current standards dating back to 1985 may not protect workers from developing respiratory disease.
For the Department of Agriculture, the administration said it would publish next April a final rule on the import, movement and environmental release of genetically engineered organisms. That proposed regulation falls under USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The Forest Service said it would have ready in December a procedural final rule intended to expand public participation in the agency’s formulation of standards and guidelines on programs.
EPA has several regulations in play regarding agricultural pesticides. The agency plans a notice of proposed rulemaking in January revising procedural rules for hearings on cancellations and denials of pesticide registrations.
Another proposed rulemaking for next April is meant to allow certain notices about new uses of pesticides to be posted on a new EPA webpage, rather than in the Federal Register.
EPA said it doesn’t have timelines in place for other proposals, including updated rules on certification of restricted-use pesticide applicators and changes in the grouping of crops for use of certain substances.
EPA said it will propose next June an update to pesticide data requirements regarding possible threats to insect pollinators.
EPA also remains on target for a December 2017 publication of final renewable fuel volumes for 2018, according to the agenda.
The regulatory agenda included updates on several significant chemicals rules, some of which the administration is currently preventing from taking effect.
The final rules in limbo would update decades-old certification and training standards for pesticide applicators, reduce the public’s exposure to formaldehyde vapors from wood products, and create landmark disclosure requirements for companies that use nanoscale materials (Greenwire, Jan. 12).
All three looming regulations were finalized in the last two months of the Obama administration. Trump’s regulatory agenda says the effective date for them is now "to be determined."
Also uncertain is the fate of other rules — opposed by Congress and the chemical industry — that would ban certain uses of three deadly industrial solvents (Greenwire, July 18).
After twice extending the comment period on actions to prohibit the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of the carcinogenic trichloroethylene in degreasing and dry cleaning operations, the Trump administration hasn’t set a date for issuing the final rule.
Meanwhile, a similarly delayed rule restricting the use of methylene chloride and n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in paint stripping is poised for a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking at some undetermined date. Methylene chloride is a suspected carcinogen, and NMP has been linked to dozens of deaths from acute exposure.
And the Trump administration has signaled its intent to revisit reporting guidelines that forced manufacturers to provide justification when they request that information on certain compounds be kept secret (Greenwire, Jan. 20).
Endangered species, parks, oceans
The Fish and Wildlife Service included several proposed rules that would affect the listing and critical habitat determinations for several animals, including the Sierra Nevada red fox, the white-tailed prairie dog and the Pacific walrus.
Another proposed rule seeks to revise and streamline the 1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act "in light of our experiences in implementing the legislation and regulations over the past 15 years," the Unified Agenda said.
The department by September plans to finalize a rule that would authorize and allow bicycling on a 2-mile segment of the East Shore trail within Rocky Mountain National Park.
As a long-term action, the Commerce Department wants to amend its fishery management plan for the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, allowing more "regional management."
Last month, the department extended the 2017 fishing season by 39 days, siding with sports fishermen who complained the season was too short.
The department said regional management "would enable regions and their associated communities to specify the optimal management parameters that best meet the needs of their local constituents."
Commerce also plans to finalize a rule by December that would put caps on the number of permits and lobster traps that can be actively fished in an attempt to rebuild the southern New England lobster stock.
Reporters Dylan Brown, Ellen M. Gilmer, Marc Heller, Corbin Hiar, Rob Hotakainen, Camille von Kaenel, Kellie Lunney, Christa Marshall, Sam Mintz, Sean Reilly and Ariel Wittenberg contributed.