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Shared from the 5/10/2020 The Denver Post eEdition By Nadja Popovich, Kendra Pierre-Louis and Livia Albeck-Ripka
© The New York Times Co.

After three years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled most of the major climate and environmental policies the president promised to undo.

Calling the rules unnecessary and burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other businesses, President Donald Trump’s administration has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks. It has rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water and toxic chemicals. Several major reversals have been finalized in recent weeks as the country has struggled to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

In all, a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 60 environmental rules and regulations officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back under Trump. An additional 34 rollbacks are still in progress.

With elections looming, the administration has sought to wrap up some of its biggest regulatory priorities quickly, said Hana V. Vizcarra, a staff lawyer at Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program. Further delays could leave the new rules vulnerable to reversal under the Congressional Review Act if Democrats are able to retake Congress and the White House in November, she said.

The bulk of the rollbacks identified by The Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which repealed and replaced the Obama-era emissions rules for power plants and vehicles and weakened protections for more than half the nation’s wetlands.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas and limiting wildlife protections.

We have summarized some rules that have been targeted for reversal in the past three years.

Air pollution and emissions (completed)

• Weakened Obama-era fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and light trucks. EPA, Transportation Department

• Revoked California’s power to set stricter tailpipe emissions standards. EPA

• Withdrew the legal justification for an Obama-era rule that limited mercury emissions from coal power plants. EPA

• Replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a new version that would let states set their own rules. Executive order, EPA

• Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions. EPA

• Loosened a Clinton-era rule intended to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters. EPA

• Revised a program intended to safeguard communities from increases in pollution from new power plants. EPA

• Amended rules that govern how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities. EPA

• Weakened an Obama-era rule meant to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas. EPA

• Relaxed air pollution regulations for a handful of plants that burn waste coal for electricity. EPA

• Withdrew guidance directing federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. Executive order, Council on Environmental Quality

• Revoked an Obama executive order that set a goal of cutting the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over 10 years. Executive order

Air pollution and emissions (in progress)

• Submitted notice of intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Executive order

• Proposed relaxing Obama-era requirements that companies monitor and repair methane leaks at oil and gas facilities. EPA

• Opened for comment a proposal limiting the ability of individuals and communities to challenge EPA-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges. EPA

• Proposed limiting pesticide application buffer zones that are intended to protect farmworkers and bystanders from accidental exposure. EPA

Drilling and extraction (completed)

• Made significant cuts to the borders of two national monuments in Utah and recommended border and resource-management changes to several more. Presidential proclamation, Interior Department

• Lifted ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Congress, Interior Department

• Scrapped a proposed rule that required mines to prove they could pay to clean up future pollution. EPA

• Approved construction of the Dakota Access pipeline less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Executive order, Army

• Loosened Obama-era offshore drilling safety regulations enacted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. Interior Department

• Lifted an Obama-era freeze on new coal leases on public lands. Executive order, Interior Department

Drilling and extraction

(in progress)

• Proposed opening most of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling. Interior Department

• Proposed “streamlining” the approval process for drilling for oil and gas in national forests. Agriculture Department, Interior Department

• Recommended shrinking three marine protected areas or opening them to commercial fishing. Executive order; NOAA

• Proposed opening more land in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve for oil drilling. Interior Department

• Proposed lifting a Clinton-era policy that banned logging and road construction in Tongass National Forest, Alaska. Interior Department

• Approved the Keystone XL pipeline. Executive order, State Department

Infrastructure and planning (completed)

• Relaxed the environmental review process for federal infrastructure projects. Executive order

• Revoked a directive for federal agencies to minimize impacts on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources when approving development projects. Executive order

• Restricted most Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing a need to reduce paperwork. Interior Department

• Withdrew a number of Obama-era Interior Department climate change and conservation policies that the agency said could “burden the development or utilization of domestically produced energy resources.” Interior Department

Infrastructure and planning (in progress)

• Proposed plans to speed up the environmental review process for Forest Service projects. Agriculture Department

Animals (completed)

• Changed the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, making it more difficult to protect wildlife from long-term threats posed by climate change. Interior Department

• Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges. Congress

• Rolled back an approximatley 40-year-old interpretation of a policy aimed at protecting migratory birds, potentially running afoul of treaties with Canada and Mexico. Interior Department

Animals (in progress)

• Opened 9 million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled bird. Interior Department

Water pollution


• Scaled back pollution protections for certain tributaries and wetlands that were regulated under the Clean Water Act by the Obama administration. EPA, Army

• Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams. Congress

Water pollution (in progress)

• Proposed weakening a portion of the Clean Water Act to make it easier for the EPA to issue permits for federal projects over state objections if the projects don’t meet local water quality standards, including for pipelines and other fossil fuel facilities. Executive order, EPA

• Proposed doubling the time allowed to remove lead pipes from water systems with high levels of lead. EPA

Toxic substances and safety (completed)

• Rejected aproposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to developmental disabilities in children. EPA

• Ended an Occupational Safety and Health Administration program to reduce risks of workers developing the lung disease silicosis. Labor Department

Toxic substances and safety (in progress)

• Proposed changing safety rules to allow for rail transport of the highly flammable liquefied natural gas. Transportation Department

• Announced a review of an Obama-era rule lowering coal dust limits in mines. Labor Department

Other (completed)

• Repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency standards starting in January 2020. Energy Department

• Reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks, intended to cut down on litter, despite a Park Service report that the effort worked. Interior Department

Other (in progress)

• Proposed a sweeping overhaul of the National Environmental Policy Act that would limit the scope of environmental concerns federal agencies need to take into account when constructing public infrastructure projects, such as roads and pipelines. Council on Environmental Quality

• Proposed limiting the studies used by the EPA for rule making to only those that make data publicly available. (Scientists widely criticized the proposal, saying it would block the agency from considering research that relies on confidential health data.) EPA




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