In the 2017 elections, Republicans gained ground in both chambers of Congress and won the presidency. Unified governments are unusual – the last time that Republicans controlled all branches of the federal government was in the last years of George W Bush’s presidency. Unified government is also incredibly potent politically. The previous four years, conservative legislative priorities and policies have been pushed regularly by a conservative Congress, held in check by the Obama White House and its veto pen. Now, the Republican Party is primed to enact its own agenda with very few direct or institutional checks on its ability to make policy. Environmental protection in this country is based on private-sector regulation from public agencies, and this is prone to significant change. There are indications of the approach that congressional Republicans and the President will take on the environment. President Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” details the deregulation of fossil fuel industries and weakening of water and air protections. Republicans in Congress consistently introduced legislation under President Obama aimed at slashing EPA funds, reevaluating approaches to pollutants, and withdrawing climate change from the American environmental policy framework. There is clear precedent for the direction that Republican leaders are likely to take. However, we do not know exactly what the Republicans will do in the coming months, nor what kinds of environmental approaches the new government will take.
This blog is an attempt to compile the most significant environmental policy changes in Washington DC under the new administration. I will keep tabs on legislation, agency-level rule changes, and executive actions pertaining to the environment, explain those changes, and question what they might mean. The goal is to provide a comprehensive list of significant policy change, and use this compilation to analyze the directions Congress and President Trump are taking the environmental regime.