Trump orders sweeping freeze, pledges energy reforms
Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter
Published: Monday, January 23, 2017
President Trump ordered a mandatory freeze on a wide range of pending Obama administration rules over the weekend, taking the first steps toward what he has promised will be a sweeping assault on the former president’s regulatory agenda. In a memorandum, released Friday, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called for most pending rules to be halted “in order to ensure that the President’s appointees or designees have the opportunity to review any new or pending regulations,” he wrote. The freeze could have an immediate effect on a number of non-final rules from agencies like the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, U.S. EPA, the Department of Transportation, among others, according to federal records.The order calls for all regulations that have been sent to the Office of Federal Register but not published to be immediately withdrawn.
For regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but have not yet taken effect, the order calls for their postponement for at least 60 days. The memo makes exceptions for rules regarding emergency situations relating to health, safety, finance or national security matters. Trump may reveal some of his plans for regulatory reform today at 10:30 a.m., when he is scheduled to issue executive orders.
Trump has also relaunched the White House website, clarifying his mission to rollback Obama rules (Greenwire, Jan. 20).
Pages on climate change, civil rights, health care and LGBT issues have been replaced with pages on “America First Energy Plan,” “Bringing Back Jobs and Growth,” “Making Our Military Strong Again” and “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community.” In the “America First Energy Plan,” the administration lays out goals to reverse Obama actions geared towards combating climate change, while bolstering the oil, gas and coal industries. “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule,” the website now reads.
“The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.” The revenue from energy production will be used for major infrastructure projects, according to the website. While the current freeze will have no impact on existing regulations, like the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule, it could effectively halt a final rule from DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that boosts pipeline safety by improving notification-response time after a spill. The rule was released Friday and was slated for publication today (Greenwire, Jan. 20).
Another recent PHMSA rule that could be affected is a proposed regulation to shore up restrictions on shipments of crude oil by rail. The order could also affect a rule EPA is drafting on greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft, a court-ordered rule for hardrock miners to find a way to pay for environmental cleanups and a Fish and Wildlife Service effort to add bumblebees to the endangered species list. Several new DOE efficiency standards that were part of Obama’s effort to cut greenhouse-gas emissions could also be frozen. Standards affecting portable air conditioners, commercial boilers and power supplies were issued Dec. 28, 2016, but have not yet been published in the Federal Register.
DOE also released new standards for pool pumps, ceiling fans, residential air conditioners and heat pumps that are published but are not due to take effect until later this year. Some of these rules were negotiated with industry and so have a better chance of eventually taking effect. It is not uncommon for new presidents to halt the outgoing administration’s regulatory activity. In anticipation of such a freeze, President Obama took pains to push through as many rules as possible in the waning days of his administration.
While some of these rules, such as the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule and the Bureau of Land Management’s methane rule, are not vulnerable to the new freeze, they could be thwarted by the Congressional Review Act. The CRA is a little-used, highly effective tool that allows Congress to review and possibly nix new agency rules within 60 legislative days. Renewable fuel standard obligations, vehicle emissions standards and EPA’s aircraft emissions endangerment finding could be halted by the CRA.
But older rules like the EPA Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Plan will be more difficult to repeal and could take years to complete.