Public-interest, environmental and labor groups have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of President Donald Trump's executive order requiring federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one.
The so-called “one in, two out” order was signed January 30th. It states new regulations must have a net cost of zero-dollars in the current fiscal year, without considering the value of benefits to public health and safety. Trump was flanked by nine small-business owners when he signed the document. "We have to knockout two regulations for every new regulation, so if there's a new regulation they have to knock out two. But it goes far beyond that, cutting regulations massively for small business."
Trump noted his order would enable businesses to open and expand "very easily."
Amit Narang is a Regulatory Policy Advocate at Public Citizen. He says the order could severely impact agencies that are supposed to be protecting the public. Agencies involved run the gamut from consumer product and food safety to environmental protection to those regulating Wall Street. "Let me give you an example. When it comes to the EPA, the EPA is supposed to protect the public from numerous air pollution, water pollution, and other types of environmental risks to human health and to the environment itself. What this executive order would force the EPA to do, is eventually, if they're going to produce new regulations, which they are, they're planning in 2017 to produce updated lead standards in drinking water, make sure that we have the strongest standards against lead in drinking water, or course in the wake of the Flint, Michigan tragedy. If the EPA is going to regulate lead in drinking water, well, it's gonna have to get rid of a regulation that costs industry as much as the regulation of lead will cost industry. So that's gonna really give them a Sophie's Choice where they're gonna have to get rid of another very, very important regulation that's benefiting the public, say, limiting mercury pollution from power plants."
Those who support Trump's order argue it will strike down unnecessary regulations hampering small business growth.
David Goldston, Director of Government Affairs with the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the order "illogical" in part because, when it comes to protections and safeguards, it looks at the costs of industry complying but not the cost to the public of inaction. "We think that this violates numerous laws which require a thoughtful consideration of costs and benefits, or at least of benefits, when the government is trying to decide how to protect the public from air pollution, from financial fraud, from unsafe food or any other threat. So we think this is very much in keeping with the strategy the congressional Republican leaders and President Trump have laid out to try and undermine the regulatory system. We do not think that this is something that the public supports, and we don't think it's something that the courts will permit."
Narang says every federal agency is at risk. "I think it really becomes obvious to the public when you have these massive and eye-opening disasters that are due to a lack of regulation. I'm thinking here of the BP oil spill, the numerous oil train derailments, you have types of disasters when it comes to drinking water, not only in Flint but these algae outbreaks in Ohio and other parts of the country that make water basically toxic for human consumption, force folks to drink bottled water and use bottled water. Pipeline spills. We're constantly seeing these. Agencies have to be able to respond to these issues with new regulations. And if you're basically saying you've gotta get rid of regulations before you do new ones, it's gonna make it very difficult for agencies to respond in these emergency situations."
The lawsuit was filed last Wednesday in federal district court in Washington, D.C. Narang believes it will be taken up in a matter of months. He’s hopeful it will be resolved before the order starts having an impact in blocking agencies from producing new regulations.