The new administration may revisit environmental regulations adopted not only by the Obama administration but by previous presidents, according to President Trump’s former Environmental Protection Agency transition team leader, Myron Ebell.
“And these obstacles didn’t start with President Obama on Jan. 1, 2009,” Ebell said. “Some serious work needs to be done in terms of these rules that are killing jobs in this country.”
Under Obama, EPA officials had argued that new rules limiting pollutants — including greenhouse gas emissions — would bolster the economy by spurring the deployment of renewable energy. But Trump consistently questioned that line of reasoning, saying it would take expanding fossil fuel production in the U.S. to produce job gains.
On Wednesday, the EPA suspended 30 regulations that had been issued by the Obama administration until March 21. Most of them had already been published in the Federal Register but had not yet taken effect.
Ebell said that the review of federal rules “would go a lot deeper than just what’s been suspended,” though some of the suspended rules could be finalized once newly-appointed officials had a chance to study them. “My guess is you’ll see [a] wider whack at the regulations.”
In an interview with E&E News Thursday, Ebell raised the idea of cutting the agency’s roughly 15,000-person workforce by two-thirds. Speaking to The Washington Post, he said that he thought cutting the EPA by either a third or a half would be “an aspirational goal,” though he added that he did not know whether the new administration would embrace it.
“I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen, that’s a goal,” Ebell said, noting that roughly half of the EPA’s budget is passed through to the states. “The states do most of the work, particularly when it comes to air and water programs.”
During the campaign, Trump raised the prospect of eliminating the EPA, saying at one point, “what they do is a disgrace.” At other points, he suggested scaling it back significantly. “We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”
Ebell noted that Trump would probably propose deeper cuts to the agency than would actually be enacted, because lawmakers are often reluctant to slash the budgets of agencies they oversee. “It you want to achieve significant domestic budget cuts across the government, you’re going to take on appropriators by requesting big cuts.”
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