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Tracking the EPA’s Actions

by Countable | 10.17.17

Both President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt have questioned the validity of climate change. Therefore, there’s been a few…changes to the EPA since Pruitt took over. Actually, there’s been more than a few. Which is why Countable decided to track the major policy initiatives, actions, and rollbacks the EPA is making.

Think of it like our Executive Action tracker for the EPA.

And, as always, make sure to tell Pruitt your thoughts:

EPA actions are listed in order of most recent to oldest.

October 16, 2017

Pruitt issues a directive to end the practice known as “sue and settle.” In the past, the EPA would resolve litigation over the agency’s failure to meet a regulatory deadline by agreeing to timelines in which they’d act. For example, an environmental group would sue the EPA over its failure to regulate smog in the Midwest by some statutory deadline; in response, the EPA would settle by agreeing on a clean air regulation. “It’s very important that we do not get engaged in regulation through litigation,” Pruitt said. “This is something that is a long time coming with respect to this agency.”

October 10, 2017

Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, issues a proposal to roll back the Clean Power Plan. The Obama-era initiative, which was stayed by the Supreme Court, would have required the energy sector – especially coal – to reduce carbon emissions. Pruitt says the rule hurts coal-fired plants and with the rollback, "the war on coal is over." This is in line with Pruitt’s statements that he “would not agree that” carbon dioxide is "a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

October 9, 2017

Pruitt calls for an end to tax credits for wind and solar, telling the audience of coal manufacturers, "I would do away with these incentives that we give to wind and solar. I’d let them stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources, and let utilities make real-time market decisions on those types of things as opposed to being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits that occur, both in the federal level and state level." (Video)

October 5, 2017

The EPA releases its four-year strategic plan. The draft outlines the agency’s priorities, which include the "rebalance" of the EPA’s role in regulation by shifting more responsibility to states, and an enforcement of environmental laws “as Congress intended.” The phrase “climate change” does not appear in the 38-page document.

Pruitt has rejected the scientific consensus on climate change, and also questions the findings that human activity could be a factor. "I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact," Pruitt said.

October 3, 2017

The EPA announces its "Smart Sectors Program," which will allow regulated industries to have a greater say in how they’re regulated. In a listing with the Federal Register published in September, the EPA stated the program’s purpose is to “reduce unnecessary regulatory burden.”

September 27, 2017

For decades, the EPA funded the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, bankrolling DOJ lawyers who go after polluters responsible for creating hazardous waste sites. Pruitt signals, however, that he wants to end those payments.

September 13, 2017

In a letter, Pruitt says that it is "appropriate and in the public interest" to revisit parts of an Obama-era effort to regulate coal ash. The decision comes after industry officials petitioned the EPA, writing in May that the regulation “affects both the utility and coal industries and also affects the large and small businesses that support and rely upon those industries.” (Coal ash, as explained by the Washington Post, is a “toxic mix of mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals [that] can pollute waterways, poison wildlife, and cause respiratory illness among those living near the massive storage pits plant operators use to contain it.”)

August 29, 2017

In May (see below), the EPA announced a 90-day stay on enforcing landfill methane rules. As the EPA explains, landfill gas (LFG) "is composed of roughly 50 percent methane [and] 50 percent carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period." On the day the three-month stay expires, an agency spokesperson tells industry blog Waste Dive, "We have no updates at this time.”

August 17, 2017

Pruitt announces that he’s going to revisit an October 2016 decision that would have applied heavy-duty truck greenhouse gas emissions standards to gliders and trailers. In a statement, the EPA says the decision came "following concerns raised by stakeholders in the trailer and glider industry."

August 2, 2017

A federal court orders the EPA to enforce an Obama administration climate regulation known as "the methane rule." The rule places pollution limits on the oil and gas industry, and requires that companies locate and fix methane leaks. Pruitt had tried to stop its enforcement on numerous occasions: In April, he said that the agency would "reconsider" the methane rule; in June, he issued a notice advising that the EPA would block the rule's enforcement for two years, giving energy companies time to review the rule and the public time to comment.

June 27, 2017

The army joins the EPA in a proposal to scuttle the clean water rule. The Obama-era legislation expanded the fed’s protections of drinking water to around a third of Americans. Pruitt says the rollback is necessary to provide "regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses."

June 13, 2017

The EPA proposes delaying the "methane rule" for two years. Detractors criticized the EPA, saying children would be at heightened risk from cancer-causing pollutants in the air. The EPA acknowledges this reality in its announcement, saying it “believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children.” However, the agency counters that “any impacts on children’s health caused by the delay in the rule will be limited because the length of the proposed stay is limited.”

June 1, 2017

President Trump announces that his administration will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, and begin renegotiating the Paris accord or a new agreement on more favorable terms. In April, Pruitt had recommended the withdrawal, saying in an interview, "It’s something we need to exit in my opinion. “It’s a bad deal for America. It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all of our costs."

May 23, 2017

Citing the input of waste management industry professionals, the EPA announces a 90-day administrative stay on landfill methane rules. Methane is released from decomposing garbage, and the Obama administration had issued guidelines which required "landfills to install and operate…gas collection systems, monitor emissions, as well as other provisions." Pruitt says the three-month stay “will give stakeholders the opportunity to review these requirements” and “assess economic impacts.”

April 27, 2017

When Pruitt was attorney general for Oklahoma, he sued the Obama-era EPA to stop the enforcement of a rule known as MATS: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants. The EPA was supposed to defend the rule against the state AGs and a coalition of utility and mining companies. But on April 27, the Pruitt-run agency successfully convinces an appeals court to delay arguments, writing, "in light of the recent change in Administration, EPA requests continuance of the oral argument to give the appropriate officials adequate time to fully review."

April 13, 2017

The EPA hits pause on the Clean Water Act (ELG Rule), a regulation aimed at limiting the amount of toxic metals (arsenic, lead, mercury) power plants can dump into public waterways. "This action is another example of EPA implementing President Trump’s vision of being good stewards of our natural resources, while not developing regulations that hurt our economy and kill jobs," Pruitt said in a statement.

April 11, 2017

In 2015, the Obama administration had placed stricter standards on ozone pollution. On April 11, 2017, a court grants an EPA request to delay the "smog rule standards" implementation.

March 29, 2017

Pruitt rejects the scientific conclusion of the EPA’s own chemical safety experts to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The agency’s scientists had said the ban was warranted because of its potential harm to children and farm workers. But Pruitt says in a statement that "by reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making—rather than predetermined results."

March 28, 2017

President Trump issues an executive order directing the EPA to revise, rescind, or suspend all energy regulations put in place during the Obama administration. This includes rewriting the Clean Power Plan, ending the ban on coal mining on public land, and removing climate change as a consideration when approving federal projects. "C’mon, fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says?" Trump asked the miners surrounding him during the EO signing. “You’re going back to work!”

March 15, 2017

Trump tells a crowd in Detroit that he’s ordering the EPA to review the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. These fuel efficiency standards were meant to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, but Pruitt said they’re "costly for automakers and the American people."

March 2, 2017

A day after red-state governors and attorneys general write to Pruitt and request the EPA stop collecting methane emissions data from 15,000 oil and gas operations, Pruitt obliges. He says the decision was made "after hearing from industry."

February 28, 2017

President Trump pens an executive order instructing the EPA to rewrite the "Waters of the United States" Rule. WOTUS expanded the Clean Water Act to protect smaller bodies of water. Surrounded by farmers, home developers, and county commissioners, Trump signed the EO, saying, "Regulations and permits started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were a major industrial polluter. They treated them horribly."

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: Creative Commons)

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