Reaction to D.C. Bar Finance Department: Environmental Priorities of Congress and the New Administration

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Article by Tyler Ferdinand


The International Environmental and Resource Law Committee held a seminar today featuring prominent environmental journalists discussing environmental priorities of Congress and the new administration. Panelists included Jeremy Bernstein (Inside Washington Publishers), Josh Kurtz (Environment and Energy Daily Editor) and John Siciliano (Energy & Environment Correspondent, Washington Examiner).


Although much of the discussion focused on the uncertainty of the Trump trajectory the panel highlighted several recent developments under the new administration. Of particular concern was the employment of the little-used Congressional Review Act. The Congressional Review Act allows the legislative branch to repeal rules and regulations passed on or after June 13, 2016. In the past weeks the executive branch and Congress have used this Act to repeal rules regarding the capture of methane emissions, the post-mining restoration of streams and waterways and the transparency of payment to foreign governments by oil, gas and mining companies.


Also of concern was the future of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Panelists discussed how President Trump’s EPA transition team leader, Myron Ebell, supported a 10% EPA budget cut and the elimination the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. This led to speculation that there could also be a potential for rolling back standards for fine particles and ozone. Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s controversial EPA Administrator nominee, was also mentioned for wanting to return the EPA’s authority and budget back to the states.


The prospective elimination of the Clean Power Plan and the Climate Action Plan was also a major feature of the discussion.  These plans designed under the Obama administration were meant to cut carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change and lead international climate change efforts. Panelists seemed confident that the disassembling of both plans was likely to occur under the new administration. Siciliano mentioned that under former President George W. Bush there was an emphasis on technology for climate change mitigation as a substitute for climate change regulation. Siciliano believes there will be no clean energy program substitute under the Trump administration.


Despite a strong emphasis on future deregulation and rollbacks on environmental protection there remained a general consensus of extreme uncertainty amongst panelists. While touching upon Trump’s conundrum of simultaneous promotion of coal and fracking, Kurtz summarized by saying, “Trump has no fixed ideology besides self-regard.”

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