The Biggest Obama-Era Regulations Rolled Back Under President Trump
by JASON HOPKINS
The Clean Power Plan
The Clean Power Plan — the Obama administration first proposed it in 2014 and finalized in 2015 — places a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases power plants can emit. The plan aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The policy was a centerpiece of what Obama critics referred to as his “war on coal.”
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt would sign a proposed rule to repeal the CPP, he announced on Oct. 10, 2017. Undoing the rule will save Americans $33 billion in compliance costs, despite the previous administration claiming it would only cost $8.4 billion and save millions through public health benefits, EPA officials estimated.
Waters Of The United States
The Clean Water Rule, otherwise known as the Waters of The United States, was enacted in 2015 in an attempt to clarify which bodies of water and wetlands are designated for federal protection. However, the regulation was met with immediate backlash as critics pointed to ambiguity in the rule opening the door for possible government overreach. Pruitt led a multi-state lawsuit against the rule when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, calling it “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.”
Trump signed an executive order on February 28, 2017, calling for a review of the plan. On June 27 of that year, Pruitt would repeal the rule, he announced. The EPA is now in the process of reissuing the order but with a more clear definition of “waters of the U.S.” meant to lower compliance costs to businesses and minimize intrusion to private property.
Vehicle Emissions Standards
In 2012, the Obama administration adopted stringent new vehicle emissions standards. The rules would have applied to cars and light trucks made between 2022 and 2025, requiring them to nearly double their average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon. The new emissions standards were a component of Obama’s pledge to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Trump’s White House had long considered the standards as unnecessarily burdensome on U.S. automakers. The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be drafting entirely new greenhouse gas emissions and mileage standards, Pruitt announced on April 2. However, the move is igniting a fight with California — a highly populated state with a waiver to set its own car regulations. Liberal California leaders have vowed to keep intact the tougher regulations the previous administration re-enacted — they have threatened to fight the Trump administration in court over the matter. Pruitt, on the other hand, has expressed interest in removing California’s waiver.
In December 2017, Obama utilized a provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to prohibit offshore drilling in large portions of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Enacted during the waning days of his presidency, the move was meant to cement the former president’s environmental legacy.
Just four months later, Trump signed an executive order undoing all of this. The “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” — Trump signed on April 28, 2017 — is an executive order that makes millions of acres of federal waters available for offshore drilling and exploration. Vice President Mike Pence referred to the order as a job creator and “an important step toward American energy independence.”
The Paris Climate Agreement
The Paris Agreement was one of the previous administration’s crowning achievements. The international accord called for countries across the globe to reduce their carbon footprint by tremendous rates. Without Senate approval, Obama joined the Paris Agreement in 2016, pledging to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The agreement notably left China and India to continue emitting high levels of CO2 without accountability.
On June 1, 2017, Trump fulfilled a major campaign promise by officially exiting out of the agreement. The deal was poorly negotiated and placed unnecessary burdens on working class people, Trump had long said. He echoed this sentiment on the day he withdrew, saying he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Massive EPA Budget Cuts
Not a regulation roll back, but the White House proposed budget cuts go above and beyond anything seen in modern administrations. In his fiscal 2019 proposal, Trump is hoping to slash more than $2.5 billion from the annual EPA budget — that’s an overall reduction of over 23 percent. The requested budget cut topped off a year of major staff reductions at the EPA. The agency already lost hundreds of employees to retirements and buyouts in 2017, bringing its staffing size to Reagan-era levels. Reigning in the agency’s size and influence was one of then-candidate Trump’s campaign pledges — who once said he wanted to reduce it to “little tidbits.”
Don’t Expect The Reforms To Slow Down
Trump has tasked the EPA chief with accelerating the rate of regulation repeal, the commander-in-chief announced at the Rose Garden on April 12. The president wants Pruitt to slash red tape that’s hurting U.S. manufacturers “so that they can expand and continue to hire and to grow.” Trump wants more regulations out the door, and he wants it done faster.