200 Days and Counting: Intro

The start of a series on the future of environmental law after 200 days of the Trump Administration

As of August 6, President Trump has been in office for 200 days.  When he was elected and inaugurated, there was a great deal of concern about what his Presidency might mean for environmental law.  We’ve now gone about 1/8 through his first-term, so we have a little better sense of what the future might have in store.

Over the next several days, Dan Farber and I will do a review of what has happened so far and what the next three and ½ years are likely to produce for environmental law in the United States.  Rather than going by topic area (water, air, climate, biodiversity, hazardous waste, etc.), we will generally do our analysis by channels of federal government decisionmaking: legislation, budget, regulation, etc.  We are taking this approach because understanding the channels of decisionmaking is actually much more important than looking at specific topic areas.  It may be hard for us to know right now whether and how the political balance will be for a particular proposal to revise a particular provision of the Clean Water Act or regulations implementing the Clean Water Act. But we do have a decent sense of what appears to be the plausible prospects for any significant environmental legislation to pass through Congress right now (hint: not much) or what we know so far about how the Trump Administration has been effective in repealing Obama Administration regulations (so far more sound and fury than action).  There are a couple of exceptions to this approach. One, we will do a specific focus on federal public lands, because they have such a different decisionmaking process than many other areas of federal environmental law.  Two, we will try to give some overview of what we think might happen in the pollution control and climate change context.

We hope our overview will be informative to our readers, and give a sense of what may be likely to be coming down the pike.  One theme that we think will become clear in our overview is that it is highly unlikely that there will be major revisions to the statutory structure of environmental law in the United States – a potential concern early on.  In addition, it seems like the Trump Administration will have to take more time and effort, and may be less effective, than predecessor administrations in rolling back or changing regulations.  Where we do see major possibilities for changes are in the areas of budgeting for federal environmental agencies and research, and in enforcement.  Even here, the range of outcomes includes something looking a lot like the status quo.

Our series proceeds as follows:

  1. Intro post –ERIC
  2. Legislation – ERIC
  3. Budget—ERIC
  4. Pollution & Climate Change – DAN
  5. Enforcement/Policy –DAN
  6. Executive Orders –DAN
  7. Public Lands –ERIC
  8. State and Local Action –DAN
  9. Summary –DAN