The Environmental Protection Agency “exceeded” its goals in cutting back environmental regulations during the first two years of the Trump administration, according to an internal watchdog report.
The EPA’s inspector general evaluated how the agency responded to an executive order from President Donald Trump issued in January 2017 mandating federal agencies control costs by cutting regulations. The EO asked that for every one regulation an agency issued, two regulations be cut.
The EPA cut 26 regulations, saving the agency more than $96 million, and created four new regulations — far more than the 2-to-1 ratio the White House had requested, according to the report. The agency saved roughly $6 million more than the Office of Management and budget requested.
In the administration’s first year, “the EPA had the highest number of deregulatory actions of any federal agency,” according to the report.
These actions include rollbacks of environmental regulations that govern water, air and greenhouse gas emission levels.
In the past two years, the EPA changed what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, rolled back an Obama-era plan that would have reduced carbon emission from coal-fired power plants, and proposed a rule that would allow fewer restrictions on hazardous air pollutants, among other changes. The inspector general’s report gives a fuller picture of how aggressively the agency has been in slashing regulations; the data shows the EPA has been the most successful in this goal.
While the inspector general evaluated the agency’s regulatory rollbacks, it “did not evaluate human health and environmental impacts or trends,” the report said.
In a response memo, the Acting Deputy Administrator Henry Darwin said the agency is “pleased” with the Inspector General’s conclusion that the EPA is “in compliance” with the executive order.
“The EPA has successfully and fully implemented the requirements of the Executive Order,” Darwin wrote in his memo.
The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, did not see the report’s findings as positive.
“The EPA should not be bragging about cutting vital safeguards for our air, water and climate. Going above and beyond Trump’s arbitrary benchmark is not an achievement, it only proves that Andrew Wheeler couldn’t care less about the health and safety of those he is supposed to protect,” said Matthew Gravatt, the Sierra Club’s deputy director for federal and administrative advocacy.
The inspector general recommended the agency be more transparent about its regulation changes moving forward, suggesting the agency set up a public portal where people can see updates about the agency’s actions. It also recommended the EPA’s Regulatory Reform Task Force, the part of the agency working on regulation changes, publicly release progress reports on their work.