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USEPA in the cross-hairs

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to “put a moratorium on new regulations until our economy gets back on its feet”. In the first 60 days of his presidency, Trump has so far followed through on that promise, and this could have a significant impact on environmental regulations in the U.S. moving forward.

Suspension of the Regulatory Process
On January 20, 2017, President Trump’s Chief of Staff requested that the heads of executive departments and agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), stop submitting regulations for publication in the Federal Register until they have been approved by a Trump-appointed principal; withdraw regulations that have been submitted to the Federal Register but not yet published; and postpone the effective date of published but not yet effective regulations by 60 days. Thirty environmental regulations, including the final changes to USEPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) (40 CFR Part 68), which prevents release of substances that can harm the public and the environment, were suspended pending further review.

In the March 16, 2017 Federal Register, USEPA further delayed the effective date of the RMP rule until June 19, 2017 and proposed to organize a proceeding for reconsideration of the final RMP rule.

On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order calling on the USEPA to revise or rescind the highly controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule (40 CFR Part 230.3), which governs various U.S. bodies of water, and specifically, the definition of “navigable waters”. 

2018 Budget Signals
On March 16, 2017, President Trump’s administration also released its proposed budget for 2018 that is expected to cause significant changes to environmental programs, including:

  • The USEPA’s budget will be cut by 31%, and 3,200 labor positions eliminated
  • Regional cleanup programs, including the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes restoration programs, will no longer be funded
  • The Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule to combat climate change, will no longer be funded
  • Funding for Superfund will be cut by 30%
  • USEPA’s Office of Research and Development will have its budget cut by 50%
  • The Chemical Safety Board, which is responsible for investigating chemical accidents, will be eliminated
  • More than 50 USEPA programs, including Energy Star and The Office of Environmental Justice, will end

Other agencies that handle certain energy and environmental issues, including the Department of the Interior and the National Forest Service, will also experience budget cuts, which could impact U.S. watersheds.

The proposed budget is a sign that President Trump expects to continue moving toward a leaner, less intrusive federal government. The impact could have significant consequences on the current regulatory climate and may result in significant relaxation of U.S. environmental regulations.

Interested in learning more about the potential impacts on your business? Contact me at Matt.Traister@obg.com.

About Matt Traister: Matthew Traister, PE is a vice president with OBG and the company’s subject matter expert in air quality. A leader of OBG’s National Compliance Practice, Matt has more than 27 years of environmental consulting experience involving air permitting, emission inventory development, and air and odor pollution control design projects. The author of more than 40 technical papers and publications, Matt routinely provides project management and technical oversight functions for complex regulatory compliance programs, including those under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Matt Traister
(315) 569-7882