Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Trump Administration is Racking Up a String of Environmental Losses in Court

Teflon Don may seem like he is impervious to legal challenges but he is anything but invincible when there are actual trials with actual evidence. The Trump administration has won only two of 39 environmental-regulation cases. Although Trump’s bellicose pronouncements capture headlines, the courts are quietly but consistently overturning his attempts to weaken environmental protections. A wide range of organizations and individuals are successfully turning to the courts to oppose the recklessness of this administration. In many instances Trump's environmental rollbacks were overturned and, in several cases, the courts ordered agencies to enforce their own rules.

The courts are a forum for facts and as such they are a direct challenge to this administration's deregulatory agenda. In 2018 the Trump administration lost court cases related to pesticide bans, water protections, chemical plant safety and the Keystone XL pipeline.

In March 2019 the courts blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to expand offshore drilling in Alaska and off the northeastern coast. One month later four states and a number of environmental groups won a judgment when a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration could not ignore an Obama-era moratorium on selling coal dug from federal lands without considering environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Last August 22 states launched a lawsuit suing the Trump administration over its failure to act on climate change and associated adverse health impacts.

As reported by the New York Times, here are 10 Trump administration rules that were reversed:

1. Reinstated a rule aimed at improving safety at facilities that use hazardous chemicals following a federal court order (E.P.A.).
2. Reversed course on repealing emissions standards for “glider” trucks — vehicles retrofitted with older, often dirtier engines — after Andrew Wheeler took over as head of the E.P.A..
3. Delayed a compliance deadline for new national ozone pollution standards by one year, but later reversed course (E.P.A.).
4. Suspended an effort to lift restrictions on mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. But the Army Corps of Engineers is performing an environmental review of an application for mining in the area (E.P.A./Army).
5. Delayed implementation of a rule regulating the certification and training of pesticide applicators, but a judge ruled that the E.P.A. had done so illegally and declared the rule in effect (E.P.A.)
6. Initially delayed publishing efficiency standards for household appliances, but later published them after multiple states and environmental groups sued (Energy Department).
7. Delayed federal building efficiency standards until Sept. 30, 2017, at which time the rules went into effect (Energy Department).
8. Reissued a rule limiting the discharge of mercury by dental offices into municipal sewers after a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group (E.P.A.).
9. Re-posted a proposed rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, after initially changing its status to “inactive” on the E.P.A. website. In May 2019, the agency confimed it would issue the rule (E.P.A.)
10. Removed the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List, but the protections were later reinstated by a federal judge. The Trump administration appealed the ruling in May 2019 (Interior Department).

Note: This list does not include new rules proposed by the Trump administration that do not roll back previous policies, nor does it include court actions that have affected environmental policies independent of executive or legislative action.

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