EPA, Energy Among Few Agencies Complying With Regulatory Order

By Madi Alexander and Cheryl Bolen

The environmental and energy agencies appear to be far ahead of other federal agencies in complying with executive orders signed months ago by President Donald Trump, aimed at repealing or streamlining regulations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg BNA.

Executive branch departments and agencies were required to appoint by April 25 a regulatory reform officer (RRO) and members of a Regulatory Reform Task Force under Executive Order 13,777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.” By May 25, each task force was required to provide a report to its agency head detailing the agency’s progress toward identifying regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification.

The top 10 executive branch departments and agencies that issued the most regulations last year were contacted by Bloomberg BNA about the status of their task forces and progress reports. Of those, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy appeared to be the furthest along in the process.

The EPA moved quickly and openly in March to appoint a regulatory officer and members of its task force, and has already called for public comment. Other agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, sent a redacted memorandum about its task force in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

No Word From Most Regulators

Most agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the top federal regulator, didn’t respond to requests for information from Bloomberg BNA. The Food and Drug Administration referred questions about its compliance to the White House. An EPA spokesperson confirmed its task force would meet the May 25 deadline for submitting its report to the administrator.

A Department of Education spokesman said Robert Eitel, an aide to the secretary, and Elizabeth McFadden, deputy general counsel, had been appointed co-chairmen of its Regulatory Reform Task Force. The task force report was being finalized and would be submitted on time, he said.

The Department of Energy has appointed Brian McCormack, chief of staff, as its regulatory officer, and Daniel Simmons as chairman of its Regulatory Reform Task Force, a department spokesperson said. The task force planned to submit its progress report to the secretary by the end of the day May 25, she said.

In addition, on May 30, the Department of Energy will publish a notice in the Federal Register soliciting comment from the public on improvements to its regulations, the spokesperson said.

Additional Pressure on Energy Agencies

The environmental and energy agencies are under additional pressure to comply because of similar provisions in EO 13,783, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.”

That order requires the head of each agency to review all of that agency’s existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources—with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.

Under EO 13,783, the head of each affected agency was required to submit a plan to implement the order by May 12 to the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

According to OMB guidance, affected agencies were encouraged to coordinate their compliance with the relevant regulatory sections of both EO 13,783 and EO 13,777.

No Rollbacks Requested

While regulatory task forces are in progress at other agencies, the EPA already has begun to take action in response to EO 13,777, said Matthew Gravatt, associate legislative director, federal & administrative advocacy at the Sierra Club.

The EPA announced in a press release release on April 11 that it was soliciting public comments on its evaluation of existing regulations. EPA’s docket, which closed May 15, has to date received 183,223 comments from the public.

Sierra Club submitted comments and worked to get supporters and activists to submit comments as well, Gravatt told Bloomberg BNA. Overwhelmingly, the public comments received to date are in support of environmental rules and against rolling them back, he said.

“Folks are saying, ‘My kid has asthma. These clean air protections are important. They mean a lot to me,’” he said. “‘We need them.’”

Process Shortchanged

Despite drawing thousands of comments, EPA’s process has not been particularly open and transparent, Gravatt said.

EPA approached this process by holding a couple of teleforums and public meetings, which were relatively limited in scope and open for only a short time, he said. The meetings were all held in the Washington, D.C., area, which deprived the broader community of the opportunity to participate, he said.

Primarily the process shortchanged the people most affected by these regulations, including those living next to power plants and generation facilities that produce harmful emissions and pollution, Gravatt said.

“You can’t say that you’re identifying and creating a place for the public to weigh in if your process doesn’t allow that to happen,” he said.

Reaction Uncertain

What the EPA does with these public comments is now up to the agency, Gravatt said.

The process, however, “seems almost engineered” to collect and solicit comments from industry and trade associations representing the companies subject to these regulations, he said.

Still, the EPA said in its public notice that the agency would be listening to those directly impacted by regulation and learning ways it can work with state and local partners to ensure clean air and water to Americans, Gravatt said.

“Well, those folks are the ones who are weighing in, and they’re saying these [regulations] matter,” he said. “Don’t roll them back.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Madi Alexander in Washington at malexander@bna.com; Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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