June 29, 2017 by Matthew Freeman

No Way to Make a Sausage

As appalling as the first five months of the Trump presidency have been to those of us who care about public policy and good government, we can't claim to be surprised. As Hillary Clinton memorably explained to historians last summer in Philadelphia, "There is no other Donald Trump. This is it."

But what has been a surprise is how bad this Congress has been at legislating. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are hardly newbies to the Washington scene or the political process. In particular, McConnell is the quintessential political insider: He's not much of a spokesman and is not known as an "ideas guy." But he knows the rules of the Senate, has built relationships with his Republican colleagues, knows how to wield power, and because he feels no need to be popular outside of Kentucky, he is willing to do things that are unpopular in the short term in service of long-term victories for his party. He's the one who mapped out the Republican strategy of all-obstruction, all-the-time during the Obama years, and despite the unpopularity of shutting down the government, denying Merrick Garland an up-or-down confirmation vote, and sacrificing the nation's credit rating for …

June 29, 2017 by James Goodwin

Earlier this week, Axios and Greenwire ($) reported that international oil behemoth BP is bringing on a new lobbyist to work on "regulatory reform advocacy related to Federal energy and environmental rules," as described in the required lobbying disclosure statement. That in itself is hardly news. What makes this story remarkable is who the lobbyist is, or in this case, was. Nathan Frey, who appears to be the only partner with the lobbying firm Regulatory Strategies and Solutions Group, used to be on the staff at the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). 

Regular readers of this blog know by now that OIRA plays a powerful role in the regulatory system. A series of executive orders stretching back to the Reagan administration requires executive branch agencies to submit their biggest and most important rules to OIRA for centralized review. Agencies cannot proceed with proposing or …

June 28, 2017 by Dave Owen

Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Dave Owen.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers just released a proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule and to return to previous regulations. The Clean Water Rule (also known as the WOTUS Rule) would have clarified the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It was one of the Obama administration's signature environmental initiatives, and it was one of candidate and then President Trump's signature targets. So the emergence of this proposal is no surprise. Nevertheless, the contents of the new document are surprising in several ways.

First, I'm not sure I have ever seen a notice of proposed rulemaking that makes so little effort to justify the rule it adopts. EPA and the Corps seem to have offered two, and only two, justifications for switching from the newer regulations to …

June 27, 2017 by Kerry Darragh

This post originally appeared on the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition's website. 

All month long, MCAC has been highlighting the Bay cleanup plan, also known as the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load), in order to keep track of the progress that is, or isn't, happening within the Bay watershed to reduce pollution. We recently chatted with Evan Isaacson, policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, about tracking the progress of the Bay TMDL, what more states should be doing and how citizens can get involved in the fight for clean water.

How Bay States are Progressing

Isaacson says that according to the latest modelling from the Bay Program, the bay states as a whole region remain far off track to meet both the 2017 midpoint and 2025 final pollution reduction targets.

"If we want to have any hope of restoring the Bay, we're …

June 22, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

Last fall, the Senate directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to conduct an independent study on affordability of municipal investments in water infrastructure. As someone who spent several years within the halls of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, I was honored to contribute to NAPA's research efforts by responding to a survey with suggestions for public administrators and communities struggling to meet the challenges caused by massive underinvestment in water infrastructure and the growing threats that poses to public health and water quality.

The specific questions that NAPA has been charged with answering are difficult. Over the years, EPA has developed an ever-evolving set of guidance documents with an increasing degree of complexity for state and federal regulators and the regulated community of municipal agencies and water utilities. A certain degree …

June 21, 2017 by James Goodwin

Today, Neomi Rao is likely to take one step closer to becoming the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – that is, the Trump administration's "regulatory czar" – with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expected to favorably report her nomination to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote. 

As detailed in an April 2017 CPR report on her nomination, Rao would arrive at her new position with little substantive expertise related to OIRA's work. (Evidently, her demonstrated commitment to the prevailing conservative anti-regulatory orthodoxy was the only real qualification that was needed.) But Rao still has some time to brush up on the big issues she will face as OIRA Administrator, and at the top her reading list should be The Twin Demons of the Trump-Bannon Assault on Democracy, a new report out today from Center for Progressive Reform …

June 19, 2017 by Matthew Freeman

Four recent op-eds by CPR Member Scholars underscore the scope and danger of the current assault on our safeguards now being mounted by the president and the congressional leadership. Highlights of the most recent pieces follow, but you can always browse through all of this year’s published pieces from our scholars and staff on our website.

On May 17, Alyson Flournoy and Mary Jane Angelo, colleagues at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, co-authored “Without Public Protections, Florida Will Suffer” for the Pensacola News Journal. In it, they take on the president’s bumper-sticker-driven executive order calling on regulatory agencies to offer up two existing regulatory safeguards for every new regulations they propose — the infamous “one-in, two-out” order. They write, “The executive order ignores the massive benefits of regulation to consumers, workers, people who'd prefer to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and …

June 15, 2017 by William Buzbee

This op-ed originally ran in The New York Times.

After decades of failed efforts to enact "regulatory reform" bills, Congress appears to be within a few votes of approving reform legislation that would strip Americans of important legal protections, induce regulatory sclerosis and subject agencies that enforce the nation's laws and regulations to potentially endless litigation.

This is not reform. These bills would sabotage agency regulation with legislative monkey wrenches. Key compromises about agency power and procedures, worked out under the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act, would be discarded by these overwhelmingly anti-regulatory bills. And because they would be statutory changes, not mere presidential edicts, these changes would likely long outlive the Trump administration.

It is easy to complain about regulation, of course, and much could surely be improved. But government rules are the foundation of the safety net that protects Americans. Are you ready to abandon …

June 15, 2017 by Amy Sinden

I don't know what executive order the Chamber of Commerce is defending in the amicus brief it filed Monday in Public Citizen v. Trump. But it doesn't appear to be the one at issue in that lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that Trump's "one-in, two-out" executive order is unconstitutional. That's the order he issued in January requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every one they issue. It requires agencies to make sure that the costs imposed by any new regulation are entirely offset by the costs of the two repealed regulations. And, yes, it's just as absurd as it appears at first glance – akin to a business deciding to close two old stores for every new one it opens in order to offset the costs of the new store, entirely ignoring the revenue side of the ledger. 

Perhaps the inherent absurdity is …

June 14, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

With a massive, proposed 31 percent cut to his agency looming in the background, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is preparing to visit Capitol Hill for an appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday. Lawmakers, their staff, and others are likely and understandably focused on the Paris climate agreement withdrawal, the Trump administration's proposal to end federal financial support for programs that help protect and restore a variety of Great Waters like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, and damaging staff cuts that would cripple the agency's ability to protect our health and our environment. But we should be looking beyond the big-ticket items to fully assess the damage that Pruitt and President Trump are proposing to do. 

As someone who focuses on the vitality and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay and other Great Waters in the United States, I'm convinced that the president's plans to …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
June 29, 2017

The Most Important Revolving Door You've Never Heard Of

June 29, 2017

No Way to Make a Sausage

June 28, 2017

Repeal First, Explain Later: The Trump Administration and the Clean Water Rule

June 27, 2017

Partner Spotlight: A Conversation with Center for Progressive Reform's Evan Isaacson

June 22, 2017

The Message Congress Needs to Hear As It Debates Our Water Infrastructure Needs

June 21, 2017

New Report: With Assault on Safeguards, Trump Trounces Constitution, U.S. History

June 19, 2017

CPR Scholar Op-Eds Hit Assault on Our Safeguards from Trump and Congress