May 03, 2017

Notice & Comment: Progress and Priorities in Trump's First 100 Days

President Trump’s administration recently marked its first 100 days. This landmark is an opportunity to review environmental progress, priorities and impact. We also consider the potential use of environmental policy as an economic development tool.

Checkup on Trump Administration Progress and Priorities

On the environmental front, the administration is reaching the end of the period where the Congressional Review Act can be used to overturn regulations passed under President Obama. Congress has shown interest in passing energy legislation, with a bill making it through both houses last year but running out of time for passage. This means there is a framework for an energy bill that’s based on energy efficiency and other bipartisan priorities. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to release the renewable fuel volume obligations for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this summer. This will be the administration’s first proposed rule on the program. Both the House and Senate have expressed interest in addressing the RFS with legislation as well. This will be more difficult to pass than traditional energy legislation because of the agricultural interests involved.

EPA is far behind from a staffing perspective, with Pruitt its only Senate-confirmed staff member. The White House has also indicated that workforce reductions and budget reforms are on the horizon for federal agencies.

Practical Implications

In Republican administrations, EPA enforcement could actually increase because the agency has a smaller budget for other actions, but it’s uncertain whether that will be the case in the Trump administration. Many states have similar environmental programs and are poised to enforce them if the EPA does not uphold federal requirements. However, President Trump’s budget proposes to cut grants to states by half, which may leave states unable to fill that void.

Environmental Policy as an Economic Development Tool

Brownfields redevelopment has been a keystone in helping spur economic development in many cities, and the Trump campaign touted brownfield redevelopment for this purpose. However, the proposed budget shows heavy reductions for CERCLA funding, so it’s unclear what direction the administration will take. Recent developments in vapor intrusion also create uncertainty about brownfield redevelopment.

Brownfields redevelopment has been a keystone in helping spur economic development in many cities, and the Trump campaign touted brownfield redevelopment for this purpose. However, the proposed budget shows heavy reductions for CERCLA funding, so it’s unclear what direction the administration will take. Recent developments in vapor intrusion also create uncertainty about brownfield redevelopment.

Update: Since the recording of this podcast, Congress reportedly reached a deal on the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill, which spared EPA from most of the cuts proposed by the Trump administration. The final budget will be discussed in future podcasts.

Faegre Baker Daniels’ new monthly podcast, “Notice and Comment: Faegre Baker Daniels Environmental Podcast” showcases attorneys from Faegre Baker Daniels’ offices nationwide and guests as they discuss cutting-edge issues in environmental law. Topics will cover the spectrum of federal and state environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, NEPA, SDWA, CERCLA, RCRA and TSCA – all from a practitioner’s perspective.

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