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Dispatch From Deschutes

Oregon Gov. Proposes State Legislation To Block Trump EPA Regulatory Rollbacks

A National Model?

Little Deschutes River

Little Deschutes River

I’m now in Deschutes National Forest and will post a quick note today.

Oregon Governor Brown held a press conference yesterday to announce her support of new legislation to block Trump EPA regulatory rollbacks. Hopefully, it is a serious policy proposal, and not a campaign stunt weeks before her election.

There are more than 76 regulatory rollbacks already, and that does not include important scientific and technical rollbacks that are essential to State environmental programs.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday announced legislation that would maintain Oregon’s water and air quality rules at the same level or higher than they were the day before President Donald Trump took office. …

The Trump administration has undertaken several actions to overturn or delay environmental laws from taking effect, ranging from carbon-emissions goals in the Obama-era Clean Power Plan designed to help the United States meet international climate goals to protections for wildlife — and from regulations of pesticides, ozone and mercury to expanding fossil fuel development on public lands.

With the new legislation, called the Oregon Environmental Protection Act, Brown said she is looking to inspire a national movement of states to oppose what she called the “unprecedented and aggressive attack” on clean air and water.

This sounds like a far more effective approach than current practice of States to sue EPA on each and every proposed regulatory rollback.

Litigation in federal courts is not only a case by case slog, but it is not reliable, sometime produces unintended consequences, and costs time and money. Federal judges are not the best crafters of environmental policy.

In contrast, State legislation can be comprehensive, is totally under control off State policy-makers – as opposed to federal judges – and is far less costly and quicker than federal litigation.

Obviously, a State legislative strategy is more democratic and participatory than a judicial strategy, which restricts discourse to a handful of lawyers, legal briefs, and a judge.

So, I sent the letter below to our friends in NJ, Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith and Senator Greenstein:

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Greenstein:

While enjoying the Cascades, I heard an NPR report today that Oregon Gov. Brown has proposed legislation intended to block Trump EPA rollbacks of federal regulations using State authority, called the “Oregon Environmental Protection Act“. See the San Francisco Chronicle story:

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Brown-touts-Oregon-environmental-legislation-13278395.php?utm_campaign=twitter-premium&utm_source=CMS%20Sharing%20Button&utm_medium=social

I tried to obtain a copy of the legislation, but apparently its not drafted yet.

State legislation sounds like a more effective approach, compared to case by case lawsuits to block specific EPA regulations. I’m not quite sure how this would work from a legislative and regulatory perspective, however, so will hold off on specific recommendations until I review the Oregon bill.

As you know, since the Whitman administration, many of NJ’s more stringent State regulations and technical requirements (Technical Manuals, Guidance, etc) have been scaled back to minimum federal EPA requirements (particularly the air pollution control program, which also has regulatory links to NJ “catastrophic risk” program)).

Additionally, there are federal EPA delegated regulatory programs that NJ implements directly based on federal regulations (e.g. Safe Drinking Water Act, CLEan Water Act, et al)

There also are federal EPA regulatory programs (e.g. RCRA Corrective Action), for which NJ has not received delegation from EPA.

Last, there are many outstanding issues that require new regulation that the Trump EPA has abandoned (e.g. climate change – greenhouse gas emissions reduction, et al)

Accordingly, NJ is vulnerable to federal EPA regulatory rollbacks.

I urge you to request that OLS obtain a copy of the Oregon legislation when it is introduced and that you consider sponsoring a NJ variant.

Appreciate your reply,

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