February 15, 2017

Notice & Comment: Looking Back at the Obama Environmental Legacy

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out a number of initiatives under the Obama administration. Under President Trump, the agency is likely to see significant changes and departures from the policies of the last eight years. The EPA may soon be under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, nominated as EPA administrator, who sued the EPA at least 13 times while he was attorney general of Oklahoma. President Trump has issued a freeze on communications, grants, regulations and hiring by the EPA.

Glancing Back: Obama’s EPA

Under President Obama, the EPA largely relied on rule-making instead of congressional action. The Clean Power Plan (currently stayed pending Supreme Court review) was one piece of Obama’s agenda for environmental change that was implemented through the EPA rather than legislation. Similarly, the Paris Accord, aimed at greenhouse gas emissions, was signed by the president as an executive agreement rather than approved by Congress as a treaty. EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule expanded the reach of the Clean Water Act, according to industry participants, and is now stayed in the Sixth Circuit, awaiting its day in the Supreme Court.

Looking Ahead: Trump’s EPA

Areas where the Trump administration is expected to forge a different path include:

  • Citizen science — EPA leadership and the new administration may take a more specific approach to citizen science, which the Obama administration neither explicitly supported nor tried to stop
  • NextGen — There is uncertainty regarding how this program will play out going forward
  • Sue and settle —Environmental groups have been suing the EPA to achieve settlements with desired policy changes included. Will industry groups take a similar approach with the Trump administration?
  • Environmental justice — Environmental justice is expected to play a decreased role going forward

Update: Since the recording of this podcast, Scott Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator and the Trump administration issued an executive order on "Waters of the United States." These issues are further discussed in Episode 2 of the podcast. 

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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