Former President Donald Trump’s environmental agenda suffered two significant losses in court this week when federal judges enacted rules that would have made it difficult to regulate pollution.
On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked a rule passed in the Trump administration’s final days that would have restricted the use of so-called “secret science”. This term is used by conservatives to refer to data that is confidential for the privacy of patients. in the regulation of pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And on Friday, a three-person jury in the Washington DC Circuit Court overturned rules that relaxed the EPA’s implementation of ozone standards under the Clean Air Act when the jury found that Trump-era policies were “in violation”[s] the unambiguous language of the statute ”and“ is based on an unreasonable interpretation of the statute ”.
The first case depended on the timing of the rule change – it was initiated on January 6 under former EPO administrator Andrew Wheeler, who was himself a former coal lobbyist. Wheeler argued that the rule would increase transparency by ensuring that public health policies are based on data that can be verified by anyone.
However, critics of the rule said it would limit the powers of agencies like the EPA to protect public health, as much of the agency’s science relies on work containing confidential patient data that cannot legally be made public.
For example, a landmark 1993 Harvard study that found a direct link between exposure to pollutants and mortality rates has been the basis for EPA regulation of particulate matter for years. However, because this study used anonymized health data, the Trump Rule would have prevented this and similar studies from being used to create regulations.
On Wednesday, US District Judge Brian Morris, an Obama-appointed representative in Montana, joined the critics of the rule, saying the Trump administration’s decision to pass the rule two weeks before Trump left office was “moody ” be.
He ordered the implementation of the rule to be postponed until February 5 so that President Joe Biden’s administration could assess whether or not to implement the rule.
In Friday’s case, three judges on the United States Court of Appeal for Washington, DC – Judges Harry Edwards, David Tatel and Gregory Katsas, appointed by former Presidents Carter, Clinton and Trump – found that parts of the rules were relaxing ozone regulations not legal.
The regulations passed in 2015 and 2018 allowed polluters and civil servants to flexibly comply with the ozone regulations of the Federal Clean Air Act. An important rule change has given polluters leeway to create compounds that act as precursors to ozone, which can be toxic. This rule made it possible for polluters to trade the emission of a particular ozone precursor for another known ozone precursor. Two other rules allowed states to flexibly meet ozone requirements, and a fourth gave areas that did not meet ozone reduction thresholds protection from consequences if they showed that they had a plan to meet those targets.
Environmental groups that challenged each of these provisions, including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, called these changes “loopholes.”
Biden has pledged to reverse Trump’s environmental policy
The Trump administration reversed nearly 100 environmental protections in just four years. During the campaign, Biden promised to undo many of these actions and spent part of his early days in office doing so.
As Vox’s Ella Nilsen reported:
On Wednesday, Biden signed a series of executive measures to turn this plan into a reality. In them, he instructed his administration to take a “state-wide approach” to combating climate change, which included ordering federal agencies to buy green electricity and zero-emission vehicles, instructing the US Department of the Interior to conclude new oil and gas leases on public Property or to interrupt off the coast.
These new orders come on top of Biden’s initial executive steps to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement, and instruct his agencies to reverse a number of measures taken by former President Trump to lower environmental regulations and emissions standards.
Biden has signaled that climate policy will also be a central element of his economic agenda.
“Biden’s economic agenda is his climate protection agenda. His climate change agenda is his business agenda, ”Sam Ricketts, co-founder of the Evergreen climate group and senior fellow of the Progressive Center for American Progress Think Tanks, told Nilsen.
In the short term, the President believes that this means finding ways to create new jobs. That focus was shown in one of the executive orders he signed on Wednesday, which, among other things, directed his government to look for ways to convert fossil fuel hubs into communities with a focus on renewable energy.
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