President Trump’s first 100 days in office started with a bang – as in, the sound of a shot through the heart of our country’s environmental protections. One of the President’s first official actions was to sign an executive order that requires federal agencies to axe two existing regulations for each new regulation they create.
Two-for-one might be a useful rule of thumb to conserve closet space when you buy a new pair of shoes, but our federal environmental regulations are more complex, and the stakes are high. President Trump’s Two-for-One Order is shortsighted and foolish public policy that puts the environment and public health at risk.
Less is Not Always More
The premise of the Order – that fewer regulations would be inherently good for America – is just plain wrong. Environmental regulations are doing important work on the ground to clean our water and air, manage valuable resources, and ensure a livable climate for our children and grandchildren. What’s more, many current regulations help ensure economic prosperity; they don’t hinder it, as recently noted by Dave Roberts in this piece on Vox.
Take, for instance, fisheries management regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These have been instrumental in restoring depleted fish stocks and protecting economically valuable fisheries such as scallops from overfishing. The Magnuson-Stevens Act set up a democratic regional system to guide the development of fishery management regulations. Fishermen work together with state and federal policymakers through the New England Fishery Management Council to craft regulations, which are then implemented by the federal government. New regulations are necessary to open fisheries each year and set the relevant rules for the season, such as how much catch is allowed.
In other words, these regulations are essential to allow the fishing industry to function and to comply with federal law.
Our Health and Our Climate Are at Stake
Air quality regulations offer another illustration of why a two-for-one policy is nonsensical. The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards that protect public health and the environment from dangerous air pollution. These regulations generate substantial economic and public health benefits: greater energy efficiency, fuel savings, lower health care costs, and fewer deaths.
An example is EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which controls power-plant greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan is estimated to generate climate and health benefits to the public of $55–$93 billion per year in 2030 alone. In comparison, the costs for industry to comply with the Plan are far lower: $7.3–$8.8 billion in 2030. As EPA describes, “From the soot and smog reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan, American families will see up to $7 in health benefits.” It makes no sense to repeal regulations like the Clean Power Plan that have net benefits for the public – unless, of course, you care more about pleasing industry than people.
We Don’t Have Time for This
In the era of climate change, we don’t have time for amateurish policies that toy around with important protections for our treasured resources and livelihoods. A political orthodoxy that requires repealing two federal environmental regulations, regardless of their continuing merit, in order to enact an equally defensible and necessary regulation will have real consequences for New Englanders.
That’s why we stand in support of environmental groups that have filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s Two-for-One Order. We agree that the order is not only foolish but also illegal. Agencies cannot repeal regulations on a two-for-one basis without making arbitrary choices or violating laws passed by Congress. Where Congress has ordered agencies to adopt environmental protections, the President does not have the power to repeal those regulations and thwart Congress’ instructions.
CLF believes that environmental regulations should be guided by rationality, science, and democratic process – not an arbitrary two-for-one mandate. We will continue to defend important environmental protections from belligerent onslaught by the Trump Administration.