The Trump administration has been in office for a little over a year, and it’s done a lot to change the federal government’s stance on environmental issues from announcing the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, to opening up thousands of miles of U.S. coastline to offshore drilling. So what’s the impact of all these changes? For our podcast Trump on Earth, we spoke with Dan Farber, an environmental law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and co-director of the Center for Law Energy and the Environment. He also blogs about these issues at legal-planet.org.
Farber acknowledges that President Trump has done a 180 on environmental policy in his first year of office, but he hasn’t gained much ground beyond that.
“Trump has turned the car around, but he hasn’t gone very far down the road in the opposite direction,” says Farber. “He’s got a lot of plans. There are a lot of proposals in the works, but concrete accomplishments are a lot more limited. But of course it’s only the first year.”
Take EPA chief Scott Pruitt as a test case. Farber says he’s issued a lot of proposals to undo some major accomplishments from the Obama administration, and he’s delayed putting a lot of other things into effect. But it’s not that simple. Most of the action this next year will be in court where a lot of this stuff starts to get worked out through the legal process.
“Getting rid of a rule is actually a complicated process, just like creating the rule in the first place,” says Farber. “You can’t just wave a magic wand and the rule goes away. So what they’ve done is started the process by putting some proposals out there to eliminate existing rules. But now they have to go through the gathering of comments, they have to write up pretty detailed lengthy explanations of exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
The administration is planning to issue the final rules for the Waters of the United States Rule and the Clean Power Plan this year. And it’s at that point that Farber says we’ll see the action turn to the courts.
“Probably within the first hour after these rules come out, [state governments and environmental groups] will file in federal courts to challenge the rules,” explains Farber. “And we’ll have to see over what could be a period of another year, what the courts actually have to say about these actions.”
Listen to the podcast to hear more from Dan Farber, including why he thinks the Interior Department has had many more wins over the EPA. Also, Trump has appointed 12 federal appellate judges, a record for a president in his first year. Who are these appellate judges? And what impact will they have in steering environmental policies and laws in the next decades to come?
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This episode was hosted by Reid Frazier. Trump on Earth is produced by The Allegheny Front, a Pittsburgh-based environmental reporting project, and Point Park University’s Environmental Journalism program.
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Photo (top): Scott Heppell / AP