Recent statements from Myron Ebell, the leader of President Trump’s U.S. EPA transition team, continue the drumbeat from the new Administration on reducing environmental regulation. Ebell recently stated that the administration’s goal will be to reduce EPA’s 15,000-person staff to about 5,000 employees. These statements follow on statements from President Trump in mid-November in which he would like to see two old regulations eliminated for every new regulation enacted. Additionally, there is rampant speculation that EPA programs focused on climate change and environmental justice will be eliminated, and that the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance will be significantly overhauled.
In addition to the immediate impacts on EPA, Congress is focused on reducing the federal regulatory burden. On January 5, 2017, the House passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, referred to as the REINS Act. The legislation requires Congressional approval for all new “major” regulations. Major regulations are those that impose $100 million or more in costs on the economy, as determined by the Office of Management and Budget. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it faces a tougher road. Passage will require 60 votes, including those of 8 Democrats. If the REINS Act is passed, it would likely have a significant limiting effect on future EPA regulations.
It is hard to tell how all of this will work out. Certainly, it seems highly unlikely that EPA staffing will be cut by anything like what Ebell called for. But plainly the President and his administration remain focused on reducing the environmental regulatory burden.