March 7, 2017: Immigration and health care dominate this week, but environmental changes coming

 

This news cycle was dominated by other high profile matters in Washington. On Monday, Donald Trump released a new version of his executive order barring migration from six predominantly Muslim countries. Also on Monday, House Republicans released their long-awaited plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. There is also big news coming out of EPA, with Scott Pruitt and the agency expected to announce that it will begin to review and reopen the auto emission standards set by the Obama administration sometime this week or next week. As the details come out, I will cover it.

 

Perry confirmed as energy secretary

On Friday March 7, the Senate confirmed Rick Perry as the Secretary for the Department of Energy. Perry was a very conservative governor, however his confirmation to the DOE was not very controversial. It remains to be seen what direction Perry will take the DOE in terms of energy policy and renewables. Perry denies the existence of climate change and sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

EPA withdraws pollutant information request from oil and gas producers

EPA released a statement  saying that they would no longer pursue the oil and gas industry for information related to their methane emissions. The effort to get industry to disclose emissions was a part of an Obama-era effort to quantify and regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Scott Pruitt released a statement calling the withdrawal a step to “reduce burdens on business”.

In substance, this action is very small. However, it represents yet another reversal in policy direction. Obama’s EPA had taken the first steps towards regulating a very powerful greenhouse gas, and this should be viewed as a signal that dropping clean air rules and regulations is the policy of the new administration. The media has covered this event as the beginning of Pruitt and Trump’s rollback of clean air rules. There has been much uproar over more visible policy changes like the executive orders on pipelines and draconian bills introduced in the House over the past month. I think that these large issues make smaller changes such as this less visible and easier to ignore. This represents a more subtle, step-by-step and measured approach to regulatory rollback that I think is more dangerous (in terms of protecting existing regulation) than more extreme actions.

 

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Author: Jared Sousa

Macalester College '2017, Political Science and Environmental Studies

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