EPA emerges as major target after Trump solicits policy advice from industry
By Juliet Eilperin
April 16 at 3:07 PM - The Washington Post
Just days after taking office, President Trump invited American manufacturers
to recommend ways the government could cut regulations and make it easier for
companies to get their projects approved.
Industry leaders responded with scores of suggestions that paint the clearest
picture yet of the dramatic steps that Trump officials are likely to take in
overhauling federal policies, especially those designed to advance environmental
protection and safeguard worker rights.
Those clues are embedded in the 168 comments submitted to the government after Trump signed a
presidential memorandum Jan. 24 instructing the Commerce
Department to figure out how to ease permitting and trim regulations with the
aim of boosting domestic manufacturing. The Environmental Protection Agency has
emerged as the primary target in these comments, accounting for nearly half,
with the Labor Department in second place as the subject of more than one-fifth,
according to a Commerce Department analysis.
Among the notable items on industryfs to-do list:
BP wants to make it easier to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico by
reducing how often companies must renew their leases.
A trade association representing the pavement industry wants to preclude the
U.S. Geological Survey from conducting what the group says is gadvocacy
researchh into the environmental impact of coal tar. The Pavement Coatings
Technology Council says this research could limit what it uses to seal parking
lots and driveways.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to reduce the amount of time opponents
have to challenge federal approval of projects. Challenges would have to be
filed within two years, down from six.
The Chamber also wants to jettison a requirement that employers report their
injury and illness records electronically to the Labor Department so they can be
posted gon the internet for anyone to see.h
And in its 51-page comment, gMake Federal Agencies Responsible Again,h the Associated
General Contractors of America recommended repealing 11 of President Barack
Obamafs executive orders and memorandums, including one establishing paid sick
leave for government contractors.
Three senior administration officials in different departments said the White
House is inclined to accept many of these suggestions. They spoke on the
condition of anonymity to discuss a process that is underway.
Neil Bradley, the Chamberfs senior vice president, said in an interview that
the EPA has led the government in issuing ghigh-cost, high-impact regulationsh
that harmed businesses. The Chamber estimated that rules issued under Obama
would cost businesses more than $70 billion annually.
gNow we have an administration whofs interestedh in streamlining federal
approvals and rules, Bradley said, and is providing relief gfrom a regulatory
onslaught that occurred, principally, during the prior administration.h
Across the government, administration officials are beginning to flesh out
how they can scale back rules imposed by Obama — and, in some cases, his predecessors.
Officials are launching websites to take suggestions, holding meetings with
chief executives and industry representatives, and drawing up recommendations to
submit to the White House.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to submit his report on
stimulating domestic manufacturing toward the end of next month.
gThis is the first time any administration has canvassed the private sector
to find the worst regulatory and permitting problems, and it is axiomatic that
you canft solve a problem until you have identified it,h Ross said, adding that
officials were grefining their recommendationsh now gto take responsible action.
We look forward to working further with American workers and businesses, in
manufacturing and other sectors, to unshackle the innovative spirit that made
this country great.h
The National Association of Manufacturers began preparing its response the
day Trump signed the memorandum, according to Rosario Palmieri, its vice
president for labor, legal and regulatory policy. On March 27, the NAM hosted a
meeting at its offices in which representatives from about 100 companies
discussed their recommendations with senior Commerce staff.
gThis has a tremendous opportunity to be very successful and result in real
burden reductions,h Palmieri said.
More than 80 percent of the comments Commerce received on the presidential
memorandum came from trade associations or manufacturers.
The campaign to roll back regulations has sparked concern among liberal
advocacy groups and some former Obama administration officials, who said the
federal government must keep long-term consequences in mind as it considers
unwinding rules aimed at protecting the environment and workers.
gAt a time when many CEOs are focused on the short term and looking to
maximize their profitability each quarter, I believe that a lot of
their aversion to these regulations reflects a short-term mind-set that values
reducing costs over anything else,h said Jeffrey Zients, who worked on
regulatory matters while holding two top economic posts in Obamafs White House.
gThatfs unfortunate, because well-crafted regulations are an important part of
creating sustainable and fair economic prosperity in the long run.h
Marcus Peacock, who served briefly as a senior White House budget adviser
under Trump before joining the Business Roundtable advocacy group this month,
said previous efforts to streamline regulations ghave had difficulty sticking as
strongly as they should have.h
But several of Trumpfs earliest actions could give this latest drive more
punch. Trump signed an executive order requiring that many agencies eliminate
two regulations for each new one they propose and that these changes entail no
increased cost. Another executive order established a regulatory reform officer
and task force in each department.
Several previous administrations, both Republicans
and Democrats, have sought to eliminate regulations that were deemed burdensome.
Obama launched a gregulatory lookbackh in 2011 that solicited input from the
public and saved $13 billion — mostly in paperwork reductions. The
Transportation Department, for example, changed a rule requiring truck drivers
to file reports on their vehicles every day they hit the road to one mandating
reports only when they identify problems or have reason to think therefs an
issue with their trucks.
But that effort received a tepid response from industry. Some groups,
including the Chamber, said the scope was too narrow and that they did not have
sufficient time to conduct a full review. In a March 26, 2011, letter, the
Chamber wrote the Labor Department that it was given less than a month to submit
comments: gThis compressed time frame has limited our ability to identify
regulations that may deserve attention.h
gItfs not like industry sent us a wish list of what it wanted done,h said one
former Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to
Janet McCabe, who helped craft some of the rules now in jeopardy as head of
the EPAfs Office of Air and Radiation, said her agency had sought comment from
across the ideological spectrum. That contrasted with how Trump2fs EPA is
seeking public comment, she said.
gThe signals that theyfre sending through the way they describe their
initiative is the audience theyfre worried about, to the exclusion of everybody
else, is industry,h McCabe said.
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said his advocacy
organization did not comment and has been struggling to keep up with the
goverwhelming, pretty much nonstop assaulth on rules put in place under Obama.
gThe big picture is at every turn, once the transition began, every special
interest in the country was signaled, eHey, itfs all you can eat,f h Cook
Several business advocates, for their part, say the shift represents a course
correction. The National Association of Roofing Contractors wrote in its
submission to Commerce, gFor years, the Obama Administration consistently
refused to address the many concerns of NRCA members when issuing new
Dan Bosch, senior manager of regulatory policy for the National Federation of
Independent Business, said his members are still gin limboh as they wait to see
if Trumpfs team targets regulations they oppose.
The NFIB has suggested a raft of changes, including one that would designate
the Commerce Department — instead of the State Department — as the agency in
charge of approving pipelines and other projects that cross borders. The
federation says the lead agency should have gcommercial expertise and an
interest in encouraging business.h
The NFIB has also objected to a policy adopted by the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration allowing representatives of an outside union to tour a
nonunion shop with an OSHA inspector. Bosch said it is an invasion of privacy to
have someone whofs not an employee gcoming into your business and trying to
point out things that, potentially, those employees should mention.h
But David Michaels, who headed OSHA under Obama and is now a professor at
George Washington Universityfs School of Public Health, said, gThe culture of
the trade associations in Washington is to attack any new regulation as
burdensome, even though the empirical evidence is that theyfre easily met,
theyfre not burdensome and they save lives.h
gBut injured workers donft have a voice in Washington,h he added. gTrade