No ‘Short Cut’ Seen for Trump Environmental Rollback

By John Herzfeld

There is no “short cut” for President-elect Donald Trump to roll back environmental regulations but the incoming administration still could target Obama era rules, a former Justice Department official said Nov. 15.

“The beauty of the administrative process is that the agency can change its mind, but it has to support its decision-making with an appropriate administrative record. It has to be rational and reasonable and in accordance with the law,” said Ignacia Moreno, who was assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division from 2009 to 2013 and is the principal of the iMoreno Group PLC in McLean, Va.

Congress, however, could overturn Obama administration rules or pursue revisions to laws like the National Environmental Policy Act that could weaken environmental protections. Meanwhile, the Trump administration could place a freeze on any rulemakings the outgoing Obama administration has not yet completed, Moreno said at a conference on environmental policy under the new administration hosted by the New York University Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

Repeal Unlikely

Though Republicans will control both Congress and the White House, David Hayes, a Stanford University law professor who was deputy secretary of the Interior Department from 2009 to 2013, said repealing environmental laws is unlikely.

“I’d be surprised if that happened,” he said. “These laws have endured and typically have been the classic statutes for being broad and leaving room underneath for administrative tweaking.”

He added: “I think the ballgame will be in the regulatory sphere,” with the possible exception of any attempts to amend the Endangered Species Act over California water rights issues.

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