Trump Administration Slows and Streamlines Environmental Regulatory Processes

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By Agnes Antonian and Thomas Forrester Jr.

The Trump administration is freezing 30 Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) rules until March 21, 2017, including standards concerning renewable fuel, formaldehyde emissions, oil and hazardous substances pollution, solid waste landfill permitting, pesticides, radon and air quality. The freeze will provide the new administration time to review new and pending regulations, some of which were implemented by the Obama administration.

Specifically, the Trump administration may want to review standards and regulations that it believes may fail under the Congressional Review Act, as well as some non-controversial regulations the new administration would like to see implemented. Some groups have expressed concern about the direction of environmental protections given recent signals from the Trump administration that it will heavily scrutinize the EPA.

President Trump has also signed executive orders directing agencies to accelerate environmental regulatory processes for high priority infrastructure projects. It remains to be seen whether these will expedite approvals for natural gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas export terminals at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  While an executive order may save time for final environmental assessments and issuing natural gas certificate orders, it may not be able to streamline all environmental reviews and approvals, as the order does not prevent environmental activists from intervening in pipeline reviews. Much remains to be seen about how the Trump administration will direct federal agencies in their environmental reviews, especially given the uncertain future of the Council on Environmental Quality.

Given the various uncertainties surrounding new and pending regulations, as well as the direction of environmental and regulatory agencies, it is suggested that companies continue to monitor the status of regulations until further guidance is provided by the Trump administration.