Trump Vows Extreme Deregulation of Industry, Infrastructure

By Cheryl Bolen

President Donald Trump escalated previous pledges to deregulate broadly--to as much as 95 percent--with a particular focus on the financial industry and permits required for infrastructure projects.

At the same time, Trump said he wanted “strong regulation” of banks and also that he is a “big believer” in environmental protection.

“So, we’re going to do a very major haircut on Dodd-Frank,” Trump told industry executives. “We want strong restrictions. We want strong regulation, but not regulation that makes it impossible for the banks to loan to people that are going to create jobs,” he said.

Trump also held up a long chart that he said contained the numerous federal regulations and permits required for approval to build a highway, a process that he said took a minimum of 10 years to complete.

No More than a Year

“You know, hydropower is a great, great form of power,” Trump said. “We don’t even talk about it because to get the environmental permits are virtually impossible,” he said.

Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wants clean air and water but doesn’t believe it should take 26 years to get a permit to build a building, Trump said.

Trump said his administration was speeding the infrastructure permitting process with the goal of reducing the time required to no more than one year.

Streamlining in Place

Trump signed on his second workday in office an executive order to agencies directing them to streamline the regulatory process and speed environmental reviews for infrastructure projects.

At the time, energy analysts were skeptical it would help much with natural gas and other pipeline projects.

In addition, in December 2015, a bill to streamline environmental reviews and permitting of major construction projects was included in the final conference report to highway funding legislation (Public Law No. 114-94).

The bill, called Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, established a new Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council charged with streamlining the environmental review process for “covered projects,” largely projects of more than $200 million.

Trump has not yet appointed an executive director of the council.

Other Regulatory Cuts

Still, streamlining the permitting process is just one example, Trump said. “We’re doing so many cuts on regulations,” he said.

“We have a book on regulations, and if you add them all up, it goes up to the ceiling three times over,” Trump said.

“And every industry is just like that chart and that’s to build a simple roadway or highway,” Trump said. “That’s what you have to go through. And we’re going to be able to get rid of 90 [percent], 95 percent of that and still have the same kind of protection,” he said.

The administration still wants environmental protection, Trump said. “I’m a big believer, believe it or not. But we want that kind of protection. We want clean air and we want clean water, but we shouldn’t have to get the approvals from 16 different agencies for almost the same thing,” he said.

Have Cake and Eat It Too?

Public interest groups have long been skeptical that wholesale deregulation won’t sacrifice public health, safety and environmental protections.

“This is another one of Trump’s “Goldilocks” claims on regulations that no one should fall for,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen.

Instead, 95 percent less regulation of Wall Street would lead to another financial crash that would require taxpayer bailouts of big banks, while 95 percent less regulation of the environment would lead to more asthma attacks and lead poisoning of children, Narang said.

“Trump clearly has no idea how regulation protects and improves the lives and economic security of everyday Americans,” Narang said. “He should listen to those Americans more instead of listening to big-business CEOs,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

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

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.