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Challenging Trump Administration’s ‘One-In, Two-Out’ Executive Order on Regulations

A Navajo workman covers his face at the Peabody Coal Company in Black Mesa, Arizona, May, 1972.

A Navajo workman covers his face at the Peabody Coal Company in Black Mesa, Arizona, May, 1972. The photo is a window into why we need standards from federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency that protect the public and keep polluters in check.

Lyntha Scott Eiler / U.S. National Archives

What's at Stake

Trump’s order would effectively block government agencies from issuing new health, consumer or workplace safeguards unless they repeal existing ones. It also would ignore lives saved, productivity gained and suffering relieved by government safeguards.

Overview

On Feb. 8, Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Communications Workers of America represented by Earthjustice sued the Trump administration to block an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Jan. 30 that directs federal agencies to repeal two federal regulations for every new rule they issue.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaration that the order cannot be lawfully implemented and bar the agencies from implementing the order.

Trump’s executive order would effectively block government agencies from issuing new health, consumer or workplace safeguards unless they repeal existing ones. Scientists and public health experts at agencies like the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Food and Drug Administration could be forced to choose among vital protections.

Major federal regulations, 2005–2015.'
OMB
Benefits matter: A draft 2016 report to Congress from the White House OMB estimates that the annual benefits from major regulations over the past 10 years reviewed by OMB, for which agencies monetized both benefits and costs, were between $269 billion and $872 billion, while the costs were between $74 billion and $110 billion (in 2014 dollars).

The executive order also requires new rules to have a net cost of $0 this fiscal year, without taking into account the value of the benefits of public health protections. Any public health benefits—and accompanying economic gains—do not figure into this calculation. According to this line of thinking, fewer missed days of work, healthier kids and thousands of lives saved due to fewer heart attacks are not worth anything.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, names as defendants the president, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the current or acting secretaries and directors of more than a dozen executive departments and agencies. The complaint alleges that the agencies cannot lawfully comply with the president’s order because doing so would violate the statutes under which the agencies operate and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by lawyers at Public Citizen Litigation Group, NRDC, CWA and Earthjustice.

Case Updates

March 8, 2017 | Blog Post

Making America Polluted Again

The recent slew of administration attacks on protections for clean water, clean air and food and worker safety could send America back to a time of unchecked pollution.

February 16, 2017 | In the News: Mother Jones

Trump Expected to Sign Executive Orders Hitting the EPA

Patti Goldman, Managing Attorney, Earthjustice: "A new president has to deal with the record and evidence and findings. If you take climate and the endangerment finding, that is a scientific finding that is upheld by the court. That finding has legal impacts. If there's a directive along those lines, there will have to be a process."

February 8, 2017 | In the News: Courthouse News

Trump’s Curb of U.S. Rulemaking Challenged in Court

Peter Lehner, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice: “[Trump] is effectively trying to amend a lot of statutes without going through the legislative process ... What it will do is it will make it virtually impossible, or at least very difficult, for agencies to move forward with safeguards and protections for people ... It’s actually not in the United States’ economic interest to have people die in car crashes or be sick because of what they breathe or getting harmed in their workplace.”