Opinion—The quiet revolution taking place under the Trump administration

Nov 16, 2017

By Don Wallis

 

Environmental regulation is changing dramatically.

The cover story for the Nov. 6, 2017, issue of TIME magazine is entitled—The Wrecking Crew. How Trump’s cabinet is dismantling government as we know it.

Massimo Calabresi in his lead article, Demolition Crew, explains that, unnoticed in all the uproar over President Trump’s tweeting and battles with Congress, the Administrative State is being reduced, or dismantled, depending upon one’s perspective. “Quietly, the Administration has taken thousands of actions, affecting everyone from the poorest day laborer to the richest investment banker.”

This is especially true in the Environmental Protection Agency, where its new head, Scott Pruitt, is systematically scaling back the scope of the EPA’s reach. Justin Worland, in his article Company Man In Washington, reports that “since he [Pruitt] took office, more than a dozen EPA regulations have been killed or put under review, from fuel efficiency standards to regulations on the disposal of coal ash to restrictions on toxic metals like arsenic in waterways…All this has aided business…”

The question foremost in many observers’ minds is whether this change of focus in the EPA, while beneficial to business in the short-term, is detrimental to the environment in the long-term?

Certainly some constraints placed upon the construction industry by the EPA are being dismantled. The Clean Water Act is being replaced by a more statutorily defensible interpretation of the EPA’s mandate.

Mr. Pruitt argues that many environmental decisions should be made by experts within state and local government who understand the nuances of the local environment and business community. This is motivated, in part, by an underlying belief that local communities are wise enough to regulate themselves.

The basic issue in environmental law has always been—how can our society strike a reasonable balance between the need to preserve the environment while preserving and creating jobs?

The Obama administration and the Trump administration have addressed this question from dramatically different perspectives.

Those of us in the construction industry should participate in this discussion. It’s too important to leave to politicians and bureaucrats, no matter how well intended they may be.

Sources—

DEMOLIYION CREW, Massimo Calabresi, TIME magazine, Nov. 6, 2017.

COMPANY MAN IN WASHINGTON, Justin Worland, TIME magazine, Nov. 6, 2017.

Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.