The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit against one of President Trump’s deregulatory efforts. Executive Order 13771 (EO) requires an agency to rescind two regulations for each one it wants to adopt, and have the action’s combined incremental costs total no more than $0, regardless of the benefits. When the President announced it in January 2017, I called it the “one step forward, two steps back” edict.
A lawsuit filed in February by Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Communications Workers of America argues that the EO is unconstitutional, among other things. The suit names 15 agency heads as defendants, including OSHA’s and MSHA’s.
UCS’s amicus brief describes the ways in which the EO undermines the organization’s mission.
“By precluding meaningful consideration of anything besides costs and the raw number of regulations on the books, the Executive Order undercuts the role of science in shaping public policy and impairs UCS’s ability to utilize scientific research and related advocacy to work for the safe-guarding of public health, safety, and the environment.”
The non-profit organization has more than one-half million members.
As stated in the lawsuit by Public Citizen, et al., UCS concurs the EO is invalid on its face. Public health agencies such as the EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and OSHA, have been directed by Congress to protect individuals and communities from health and safety harms. Some are directed to make decisions based on cost-effectiveness or economic feasibility, while others on cost-benefit analyses and other considerations. Those instructions are established in the agencies’ authorizing statutes and often restated in judicial decisions.
When President Trump signed EO 13711 in January, he said:
“This will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen.”
President Trump relishes actions he can say are unprecedented.
This 2-for-1 nonsense is indeed unprecedented, but so is his belief that rules don’t apply to him. The President can’t just order agencies to ignore their statutes and violate the law. Kudos to scientists and UCS for saying it, and the public interest groups for challenging the EO in court.