December 09, 2020 Feature

V. Environment

Eric Gallon, Kristy Bulleit, and Conrad Bolston

A. Introduction

In the 2019 edition of Recent Developments, the Environmental Law Committee took a look back at the woeful warnings some newspapers had issued at the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and compared them to what had actually come to pass. We found that the columnists’ most dire prognoses had not panned out. EPA’s enacted budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 were higher than all but one year of Barack Obama’s administration.1 EPA had seen a net workforce reduction, but its staffing levels (14,172) were only about 600 less than in Fiscal Year 2016.2 Rather than withering or reversing course, we said, EPA was largely treading water. But we said that three exceptions to that trend might yet prove the predictions true: (1) reduced EPA investigations and enforcement under President Trump; (2) EPA’s proposed repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan (President Obama’s rulemaking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants); and (3) EPA’s proposal to redefine the term “waters of the United States” and, thus, to change the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

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