By NADJA POPOVICH, LIVIA ALBECK-RIPKA and KENDRA PIERRE-LOUIS UPDATED Oct 15, 2020
Over four years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals.
While other administrations have emphasized cutting regulations, calling them burdensome to industries like coal, oil and gas, the scope of actions under Mr. Trump is “fundamentally different,” said Hana V. Vizcarra, a staff attorney at Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.
In all, a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 70 environmental rules and regulations officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back under Mr. Trump. Another 26 rollbacks are still in progress.
The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks; removed protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands; and withdrawn the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants.
At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by limiting wildlife protections and weakening environmental requirements for projects.
“We have fulfilled President Trump’s promises to provide certainty for states, tribes, and local governments,” a spokeswoman for the E.P.A. said in a statement to The Times, adding that the agency was “delivering on President Trump’s commitment to return the agency to its core mission: Providing cleaner air, water and land to the American people.”
But environmental and legal groups said the rollbacks have not served that mission. Ms. Vizcarra, who has tracked environmental rollbacks for Harvard since 2018, said the agency under Mr. Trump has often limited its own power to regulate environmental harm, especially when it comes to climate change.
Many of the rollbacks are facing legal challenges by states, environmental groups and others. Hillary Aidun, who tracks deregulation at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said many of the Trump-era rules have not been adequately justified, leaving them vulnerable to litigation.
Some rollbacks have already been struck down in court. The Times’ analysis identified a dozen rules that were initially reversed or suspended by the Trump administration but later reinstated, often following lawsuits and other challenges. They are summarized at the bottom of this page, and are not counted in our overall tally. Other reversals that were overturned in the courts were later revised by the administration and remain in effect.
All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.
Below, we have summarized each rule that has been targeted for reversal.