The Latest Executive Order: Any Kind of Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Make no mistake, the Executive Order signed by President Trump at EPA yesterday is a big deal.  Time will tell whether the Administration’s U-turn on the Obama rules currently in litigation, such as the Clean Power Plan and the rule on fracking on federal lands will make any difference to judicial review of those rules.  There are plenty of states and NGOs ready to step into EPA’s and BLM’s shoes to defend those rules.

Regardless, though, it’s important.  Social cost of carbon?  Poof.  Gone.  Climate Action Plan?  Gone.  Consideration of climate change in environmental impact reviews?  Gone.

We already know all this, though.  I’d like to focus on a few details concerning the EO that might have gone unnoticed.

  • The order states that development of domestic natural resources “is essential to ensuring the Nation’s geopolitical security.”  I found this statement interesting in light of the recent statements by Secretary of Defense Mattis, who very clearly stated that climate change is real and is itself an important security risk.
  • The order states that environmental regulations should provide “greater benefit than cost.”  I found this statement somewhat odd, given that the President’s prior EO known as the 2-for-1 order, essentially requires agencies to ignore the benefits of regulations and focus solely on the costs that they impose.
  • Similarly, the Order requires agencies, in “monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations,” ensure that their analyses are consistent with OMB Circular A-4, issued in 2003.  The Order states that Circular A-4 embodies “best practices for conducting regulatory cost-benefit analysis.”

I’d be interested in knowing if a single one of the authors or peer reviewers of Circular A-4 have anything nice to say about the 2-for-1 Order?

3 thoughts on “The Latest Executive Order: Any Kind of Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

  1. It seems as if discretionary considerations of climate change in environmental impact reviews, while no longer mandatory, would still be within the over-arching case-by-case scoping process undertaken by each agency. For example, the Army Corps might decide it was still important to consider sea level rise in deciding whether to undertake a coastal protection improvement. Therefore, maybe not quite “poof-gone”, though that might apply to any agency staff who decide they need to consider it.

  2. Agreed. That’s true in multiple places in the order. I’m operating on the assumption that, while Trump is in office, bureaucrats in executive agencies will do what the boss wants.

    • Speaking of which – did the extensive cost/benefit analysis appended to the Clean Power Rule ( in the Regulatory assessment) comply with the approach referenced in this EO?

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