EPA has reportedly been instructed by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) to develop a plan for consolidating its ten (10) regional offices into eight (8) as a way to realize efficiencies and reduce costs. The proposed reduction in the number of regional offices is part of the OMB’s broader budget document for fiscal year 2018, which is reported to propose a 25 percent cut to the agency’s overall budget, a 30 percent reduction in state grants, and a 20 percent cut in personnel. The proposals are preliminary, and President Trump’s official budget outline for FY 2018 is expected to be issued March 16th.  The federal fiscal year begins on October 1st.

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On March 1, 2017, the Senate confirmed Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior.  In grand fashion, Secretary Zinke arrived to his first day of work—at the invitation of the National Park Service (“NPS”) Park Police—riding an Irish sport horse.  As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke’s responsibilities will include overseeing the management of national lands, waters and resources through the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), the NPS, the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and several other agencies.  Secretary Zinke is a former Navy SEAL and a former Republican Congressman from Montana.

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On Friday, February 24, 2017, President Trump signed another Executive Order (EO) aimed at identifying and eliminating federal regulations that burden businesses. Entitled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” the EO states that “[i]t is the policy of the United States to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.”
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On February 2, 2017, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) issued Guidance in order to clarify last week’s Executive Order (EO) regarding the issuance of administrative rules. The EO requires agencies to identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed for every one newly promulgated regulation. The EO also requires the total incremental costs of all new regulations finalized in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 to be offset by eliminating costs associated with repealed regulations.
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The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted this morning to recommend confirmation of Scott Pruitt to be EPA Administrator.  The vote had been scheduled to take place yesterday, but Committee Democrats boycotted the meeting, preventing a quorum for a vote.  The Democrats boycotted the meeting again today, but the Republicans then voted to suspend the Committee’s quorum rules requiring at least two members of the minority party present for a vote.  The suspension cleared the way for the Committee to approve Pruitt without any Democrats present.

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On January 31, President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.  Judge Gorsuch, 49, graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White and current Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Since 2006, Judge Gorsuch has served on  the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado.

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President Trump continues to focus on streamlining government reviews for large scale infrastructure projects.  On January 24, he signed an Executive Order (EO) focused on expediting the permitting process for such projects.  In the EO, President Trump stated that “[t]oo often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures.”

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During the campaign, President Trump promised to remove two regulations for every new one enacted. On Monday, January 30, 2017, he made good on that promise by signing an Executive Order (EO)  requiring agencies to identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed for every one newly promulgated regulation. The EO also requires the total incremental costs of all new regulations finalized in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 to be offset by eliminating costs associated with repealed regulations.

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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.

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In a Wall Street op-ed piece yesterday, House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy announced that the House intends to pass resolutions next week under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to kill two prominent Obama Administration environmental initiatives, the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule (which applies to coal mining) and EPA’s methane performance standards for oil and gas facilities.  Under the CRA, Congress can void agency regulations upon a bare majority vote of each chamber.  Sixty votes are therefore not needed in the Senate to kill a regulation.  Once a CRA resolution is signed by the President, the agency is prevented from adopting a substantially similar regulation.
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