By Pamela King and Jeremy P. Jacobs
Four years ago, President Trump launched his deregulatory push with gusto.
His team rushed to undo the Obama administration’s environmental and energy regulations, promising a new era in Washington and installing Trump’s own regulatory agenda.
But as Trump’s sole term comes to a close, that deregulatory legacy remains tarnished and trammeled by the courts. Much of the administration’s efforts have been unable to survive legal scrutiny, while others await judgement that will come after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
So far, the Trump administration has lost 83% of legal challenges to its regulations, guidance and agency memorandums, according to statistics compiled by the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law.
That record is among the worst in modern presidential history.
“It’s pretty shoddy,” said Bethany Davis Noll, litigation director for the NYU institute. “There are all these cases they lost at the beginning, and then only this year have we seen the big rollbacks. Since Trump didn’t win reelection, the administration isn’t going to be able to defend those in court.”
The Trump administration actually notched a rare, preliminary win against a challenge to EPA’s initial decision to revise Obama-era fuel economy standards.
But the courts haven’t had a chance to reach a final decision on EPA’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule, and they likely never will now that Biden is headed for the White House.
Still, the incomplete and drawn-out legal battles on signature environmental rules under Obama — and their rollbacks under Trump — put the Biden administration in a good position to craft even stronger standards, Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein said during a recent webinar hosted by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute.
“There’s a bit of an obstacle course for the Biden administration to run,” said Sunstein, who served as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Obama.
He later added: “The good news is we know where each of the bodies is buried.”