State of Play: Trump v. the Environment

Here’s a roadmap to what he’s done — and how things will probably unfold.

How has Trump impacted environmental law? What’s going to happen next?

CLEE has issued a new report assessing the state of play in environmental law seven months of the Trump presidency. The report, 200 Days & Counting, reviews the Administration’s environmental proposals and offers a glimpse into what may be coming down the pike.

The report focuses  on the mechanisms that Trump and congressional Republicans could use to attack the environment, along with methods of resisting their efforts. There are many different possibilities, each with its own potential results and its own procedures: legislation, budget, enforcement, rule-making, executive orders, and state and local action.

Legislation making major changes in federal environmental laws involves the most serious potential harm, since it could permanently gut environmental protection. Fortunately, such legislation seems unlikely at present, barring a major political shift in favor of the GOP in 2018 or 2020. Given the current political environment, our assessment concludes that the greatest threats are severe budget cuts and severely reduced environmental enforcement, although other areas such as rule-making also pose serious problems. The report discusses the prospects for litigation to block the Administration’s efforts to roll back protections against pollution and destruction of public lands, as well as the prospects for making continued environmental progress, despite Trump, at the state and local level.

Here is a table summarizing our conclusions.  (Those of you receiving this by email may need to go to the website if you receive the table in garbled form.)

Probability of Harm/Action Degree of Harm/Benefits Reversibility of Change
Legislation Low Potentially High Potentially Low
Budget High Medium to High Potentially High (with important exceptions)
Pollution & Climate Change Medium Potentially High Medium
Enforcement High Medium High
Public Lands High Medium Mostly High
Executive Orders Medium Low to Medium (except foreign affairs) High
State & Local Action High Medium Medium to High

Altogether, this is not a pretty picture, but there are ways of fighting back against many of the Administration’s efforts.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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