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Trump might revisit environmental rules going back decades, transition adviser says

Myron Ebell, former head of President Trump’s transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, shown in Washington on Jan. 26. Ebell said he expects the new administration to seek significant budget and staff cuts at the EPA. (AP)
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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.

Ebell, who has returned to his post as a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in an interview Thursday that he does not speak for the administration. But he said that over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign and since taking office, Trump has made it clear that “he sees the EPA as an obstacle to investment in large sectors of the economy, particularly in terms of the resources sector and the manufacturing sector.”

“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.”

EPA, other scientific agencies told to limit their public communications

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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