President Donald Trump on Friday ordered federal agencies to begin identifying rules for elimination — a move he presented as part of his larger assault on regulations he said damage the economy.
Trump’s move may not have much immediate effect, but it continues an anti-regulatory push that began on the first day of his administration. The executive order he signed in the Oval Office Friday directs each federal agency to set up a “regulatory reform task force” to review an agency’s existing regulations and search for rules to repeal or modify. The task forces in particular will be directed to “focus on eliminating costly and unnecessary regulations,” according to a White House official.
Trump previewed the move in a speech earlier in the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“We have begun a historic program to reduce the regulations that are crushing our economy — crushing,” Trump told the CPAC crowd at National Harbor, Md. “And not only our economy, crushing our jobs because companies can’t hire. We’re going to put the regulation industry out of work and out of business.”
The president previously issued an order directing agencies to identify two regulations for repeal for every rule that is written, prompting outcries from environmentalists, labor unions and consumer advocates. Several groups have sued to block that order, although it is not yet clear they will have the standing in court until a regulation is repealed because of it.
Trump’s new regulatory review process likely will face similar opposition from those groups, but could prove much harder to challenge, so long as the government cites other evidence for the need to repeal each regulation.
The orders come on top of one of the Trump administration’s first acts upon his inauguration issuing a blanket freeze on regulatory actions across the government, similar to the stoppage imposed when Barack Obama first took office.
Trump said in his CPAC speech that he is not entirely against regulation.
“I want to protect our environment. I want regulations for safety. I want all of the regulations we need, and I want them to be so strong and so tough,” he said. “But we don’t need 75 percent of the repetitive, horrible regulations that hurt companies, hurt jobs, make us noncompetitive overseas with other companies from other countries.”
Trump’s critics promptly dismissed that statement.
“Cognitive dissonance, thy name is Donald Trump,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.
The president is expected to issue further executive orders on more specific environmental regulations soon.
That includes long-rumored orders directing EPA to begin the process of repealing key Obama-era EPA regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants as well as a contentious rule defining which waterways fall under federal jurisdiction.
Lifting the Interior Department’s moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal land is also expected to be a priority once Ryan Zinke is confirmed to lead that department next week. The moratorium was imposed by a secretarial order and can be lifted easily, whereas the EPA rules will take up to a year or more to formally unwind through the federal regulatory process.
Tara Palmeri and Nick Juliano contributed to this report.