President Donald Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses.
A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 80 environmental rules and regulations on the way out under Trump.
Our list represents two types of policy changes: rules that were officially reversed, and rollbacks still in progress. The Trump administration has released an aggressive schedule to try to finalize many of these rollbacks this year.
The Trump administration has often used a “one-two punch” when rolling back environmental rules, said Caitlin McCoy, a fellow in the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School who tracks regulatory rollbacks. “First a delay rule to buy some time, and then a final substantive rule.”
But the process of rolling back regulations has not always been smooth. In some cases, the administration has failed to provide a strong legal argument in favor of proposed changes or agencies have skipped key steps in the rule-making process, such as notifying the public and asking for comment. In several cases, courts have ordered agencies to enforce their own rules.
Several environmental rules were rolled back and then later reinstated, often following legal challenges. Other rollbacks remain mired in court.
All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year, according to a recent report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.
Here are the details for each of the policies targeted by the administration so far.
Air pollution and emissions
1. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions. Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Revised and partially repealed an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions on public lands, including intentional venting and flaring from drilling operations. Interior Department.
3. Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters. EPA.
4. Stopped enforcing a 2015 rule that prohibited the use of hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases, in air-conditioners and refrigerators. EPA.
5. Repealed a requirement that state and regional authorities track tailpipe emissions from vehicles traveling on federal highways. Transportation Department.
6. Reverted to a weaker 2009 pollution permitting program for new power plants and expansions. EPA.
7. Amended rules that govern how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities. EPA.
8. Directed agencies to stop using an Obama-era calculation of the “social cost of carbon” that rule-makers used to estimate the long-term economic benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Executive order.
9. Withdrew guidance that federal agencies include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. But several district courts have ruled that emissions must be included in such reviews. Executive order; Council on Environmental Quality.
10. Lifted a summertime ban on the use of E15, a gasoline blend made of 15% ethanol. (Burning gasoline with a higher concentration of ethanol in hot conditions increases smog.) EPA.
11. Proposed weakening Obama-era fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks. The proposal also challenges California’s right to set its own more stringent standards, which other states can choose to follow. EPA and Transportation Department.
12. Announced intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. (The process of withdrawing cannot be completed until 2020.) Executive order.
13. Proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants. In April 2019, the EPA sent a replacement plan, which would let states set their own rules, to the White House for budget review. Executive order; EPA.
14. Proposed eliminating Obama-era restrictions that in effect required newly built coal power plants to capture carbon dioxide emissions. EPA.
15. Proposed a legal justification for weakening an Obama-era rule that limited mercury emissions from coal power plants. EPA.
16. Proposed revisions to standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new, modified and reconstructed power plants. Executive order; EPA.
17. Began review of emissions rules for power plant startups, shutdowns and malfunctions. In April, the EPA filed an order reversing a requirement that 36 states follow the emissions rule. EPA.
18. Proposed relaxing Obama-era requirements that companies monitor and repair methane leaks at oil and gas facilities. EPA.
19. Proposed changing rules aimed at cutting methane emissions from landfills. In May 2019, a federal judge ruled against the EPA for failing to enforce the existing law and gave the agency a fall deadline for finalizing state and federal rules. EPA said it is reviewing the decision. EPA.
20. Announced a rewrite of an Obama-era rule meant to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas. EPA.
21. Weakened oversight of some state plans for reducing air pollution in national parks. (In Texas, the EPA rejected an Obama-era plan that would have required the installation of equipment at some coal-burning power plants to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions.) EPA.
22. Proposed repealing leak-repair, maintenance and reporting requirements for large refrigeration and air conditioning systems containing hydrofluorocarbons. EPA.
Drilling and extraction
23. Made significant cuts to the borders of two national monuments in Utah and recommended border and resource management changes to several more. Presidential proclamation; Interior Department.
24. Rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands. Interior Department.
25. Scrapped a proposed rule that required mines to prove they could pay to clean up future pollution. EPA.
26. Withdrew a requirement that Gulf oil rig owners prove they could cover the costs of removing rigs once they have stopped producing. Interior Department.
27. Approved construction of the Dakota Access pipeline less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Under the Obama administration, the Army Corps of Engineers had said it would explore alternative routes. Executive order; Army.
28. Revoked an Obama-era executive order designed to preserve ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters in favor of a policy focused on energy production and economic growth. Executive order.
29. Changed how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission considers the indirect effects of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews of pipelines. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
30. Permitted the use of seismic air guns for gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The practice, which can kill marine life and disrupt fisheries, was blocked under the Obama administration. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
31. Loosened offshore drilling safety regulations implemented by the Obama administration following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The revised rules include reduced testing requirements for blowout prevention systems. Interior Department.
32. Completed preliminary environmental reviews to clear the way for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Congress; Interior Department.
33. Proposed opening most U.S. coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling, but delayed the plan after a federal judge ruled that Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era ban on drilling in the Arctic Ocean was unlawful. Interior Department.
34. Lifted an Obama-era freeze on new coal leases on public lands. But, in April 2019, a judge ruled that the Interior Department could not begin selling new leases without completing an environmental review. A month later, the agency published a draft assessment that concluded restarting federal coal leasing would have little environmental impact. Executive order; Interior Department.
35. Repealed an Obama-era rule governing royalties for oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands, which replaced a 1980s rule that critics said allowed companies to underpay the federal government. A federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s repeal. The Interior Department is reviewing the decision. Interior Department.
36. Proposed “streamlining” the approval process for drilling for oil and gas in national forests. Agriculture Department; Interior Department.
37. Ordered review of regulations on oil and gas drilling in national parks where mineral rights are privately owned. Executive order; Interior Department.
38. Recommended shrinking three marine protected areas, or opening them to commercial fishing. Executive order; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
39. Ordered review of regulations on offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels in the Arctic that were developed after a 2013 accident. The Interior Department said it was “considering full rescission or revision of this rule.” Executive order; Interior Department.
40. Approved the Keystone XL pipeline rejected by President Barack Obama, but a federal judge blocked the project from going forward without an adequate environmental review process. Trump later attempted to sidestep the ruling by issuing a presidential permit, but the project remains tied up in court. Executive order; State Department.
Infrastructure and planning
41. Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges. The standards required the government to account for sea-level rise and other climate change effects. Executive order.
42. Relaxed the environmental review process for federal infrastructure projects. Executive order.
43. Revoked a directive for federal agencies to minimize impacts on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources when approving development projects. Executive order.
44. Revoked an Obama executive order promoting “climate resilience” in the northern Bering Sea region of Alaska, which withdrew local waters from oil and gas leasing and established a tribal advisory council to consult on local environmental issues. Executive order.
45. Revoked an Obama executive order that set a goal of cutting the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over 10 years. Executive order.
46. Reversed an update to the Bureau of Land Management’s public land use planning process. Congress.
47. Withdrew an Obama-era order to consider climate change in managing natural resources in national parks. National Park Service.
48. Restricted most Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing a need to reduce paperwork. Interior Department.
49. Withdrew a number of Obama-era Interior Department climate change and conservation policies that the agency said could “burden the development or utilization of domestically produced energy resources.” Interior Department.
50. Eliminated the use of an Obama-era planning system designed to minimize harm from oil and gas activity on sensitive landscapes, such as national parks. Interior Department.
51. Eased the environmental review processes for small wireless infrastructure projects with the goal of expanding 5G wireless networks. Federal Communications Commission.
52. Withdrew Obama-era policies designed to maintain or, ideally improve, natural resources affected by federal projects. Interior Department.
53. Proposed plans to streamline the environmental review process for Forest Service projects. Agriculture Department.
54. Opened 9 million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled bird with an elaborate mating dance. Interior Department.
55. Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands. Interior Department.
56. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges. Congress.
57. Ended an Obama-era rule barring hunters on some Alaska public lands from using bait to lure and kill grizzly bears. National Park Service; Interior Department.
58. Withdrew proposed limits on the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles that people who fish could unintentionally kill or injure with sword-fishing nets on the West Coast. In 2018, California issued a state rule prohibiting the use of the nets the rule was intending to regulate. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
59. Amended fishing regulations for a number of species to allow for longer seasons and higher catch rates. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
60. Rolled back a roughly 40-year-old interpretation of a policy aimed at protecting migratory birds, potentially running afoul of treaties with Canada and Mexico. Interior Department.
61. Overturned a ban on using parts of migratory birds in handicrafts made by Alaskan Natives. Interior Department.
62. Proposed stripping the Endangered Species Act of key provisions. Interior Department.
63. Proposed relaxing environmental protections for salmon and smelt in California’s Central Valley in order to free up water for farmers. Executive order; Interior Department.
Toxic substances and safety
64. Narrowed the scope of a 2016 law mandating safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals, such as dry-cleaning solvents and paint strippers. The EPA will focus on direct exposure and exclude air, water and ground contamination. EPA.
65. Reversed an Obama-era rule that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids, like oil and ethanol. Transportation Department.
66. Removed copper filter cake, an electronics manufacturing byproduct comprised of heavy metals, from the “hazardous waste” list. EPA.
67. Rejected a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a potentially neurotoxic pesticide. In August 2018, a federal court ordered the EPA to ban the pesticide, but the agency is appealing the ruling. EPA.
68. Announced a review of an Obama-era rule lowering coal dust limits in mines. The head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration said there were no immediate plans to change the dust limit, but the review is continuing. Labor Department.
69. Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams. Congress.
70. Withdrew a proposed rule aimed at reducing pollutants, including air pollution, at sewage treatment plants. EPA.
71. Withdrew a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections for certain uranium mines. EPA.
72. Weakened federal rules regulating the disposal and storage of coal ash waste from power plants. (A second phase of this rollback is still under way.) EPA.
73. Proposed rolling back protections for certain tributaries and wetlands that the Obama administration wanted covered by the Clean Water Act. EPA; Army.
74. Delayed by two years an EPA rule regulating limits on toxic discharge, which can include mercury, from power plants into public waterways. EPA.
75. Ordered the EPA to re-evaluate a section of the Clean Water Act and related guidance that allows states to reject or delay federal projects – including pipelines and other fossil fuel facilities – if they don’t meet local water quality goals. Executive order; EPA.
76. Prohibited funding environmental and community development projects through corporate settlements of federal lawsuits. Justice Department.
77. Announced intent to stop payments to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations program to help poorer countries reduce carbon emissions. Executive order.
78. Reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks designed to cut down on litter, despite a Park Service report that the effort worked. Interior Department.
79. Proposed limiting the studies used by the EPA for rule-making to only those that make data publicly available. (The move was widely criticized by scientists, who said it would effectively block the agency from considering landmark research that relies on confidential health data.) EPA.
80. Proposed repealing an Obama-era regulation that nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency standards set to go into effect next year. Energy Department.
81. Proposed changes to the way cost-benefit analyses are conducted under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental statutes. EPA.
82. Delayed compliance dates for federal building efficiency standards until Sept. 30, 2017. No updates have been published, and the status of the rule remains unclear. Energy Department.
83. Proposed withdrawing efficiency standards for residential furnaces and commercial water heaters designed to reduce energy use. Energy Department.
84. Initially withdrew then delayed a proposed rule that would inform car owners about fuel-efficient replacement tires. (The Transportation Department has scheduled a new rule-making notice for 2020.) Transportation Department.
Nine rules were reinstated following lawsuits and other challenges:
1. Reinstated a rule aimed at improving safety at facilities that use hazardous chemicals following a federal court order. EPA.
2. Reversed course on repealing emissions standards for “glider” trucks — vehicles retrofitted with older, often dirtier engines — after Andrew Wheeler took over as head of the EPA. EPA.
3. Delayed a compliance deadline for new national ozone pollution standards by one year, but later reversed course. EPA.
4. Suspended an effort to lift restrictions on mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. But the Army Corps of Engineers is performing an environmental review of an application for mining in the area. EPA; Army.
5. Delayed implementation of a rule regulating the certification and training of pesticide applicators, but a judge ruled that the EPA had done so illegally and declared the rule in effect. EPA.
6. Initially delayed publishing efficiency standards for household appliances, but later published them after multiple states and environmental groups sued. Energy Department.
7. Reissued a rule limiting the discharge of mercury by dental offices into municipal sewers after a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. EPA.
8. Reposted a proposed rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, after initially changing its status to “inactive” on the EPA website. In May 2019, the agency confirmed it would issue the rule. EPA.
9. Removed the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List, but the protections were later reinstated by a federal judge. (The Trump administration appealed the ruling in May 2019.) Interior Department.