Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Communications Workers of America have sued the Trump administration to block an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Jan. 30 that directs federal agencies to repeal two federal regulations for every new rule they issue.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaration that the order cannot be lawfully implemented and bar the agencies from implementing the order.
The order requires new rules to have a net cost of $0 this fiscal year, without taking into account the value of the benefits of public protections.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, names as defendants the president, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the current or acting secretaries and directors of more than a dozen executive departments and agencies. The complaint alleges that the agencies cannot lawfully comply with the president’s order because doing so would violate the statutes under which the agencies operate and the Administrative Procedure Act.
“No one thinking sensibly about how to set rules for health, safety, the environment and the economy would ever adopt the Trump Executive Order approach – unless their only goal was to confer enormous benefits on big business,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. “If implemented, the order would result in lasting damage to our government’s ability to save lives, protect our environment, police Wall Street, keep consumers safe and fight discrimination. By irrationally directing agencies to consider costs but not benefits of new rules, it would fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits.”
“President Trump’s order would deny Americans the basic protections they rightly expect,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “New efforts to stop pollution don’t automatically make old ones unnecessary. When you make policy by tweet, it yields irrational rules. This order imposes a false choice between clean air, clean water, safe food and other environmental safeguards.”
CWA President Chris Shelton said, “It is unbelievable that the Trump administration is demanding that workers trade off one set of job health and safety protections in order to get protection from another equally dangerous condition. This order means that the asbestos workplace standard, for example, could be discarded in order to adopt safeguards for nurses from infectious diseases in their workplaces. This violates the mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers’ safety and health. It also violates common sense.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by lawyers at Public Citizen Litigation Group, NRDC, CWA and Earthjustice.
“When presidents overreach, it is up to the courts to remind them no one is above the law and hold them to the U.S. Constitution,” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman. “This is one of those times.”
A draft 2016 report to Congress from the White House OMB estimates that the annual benefits from all major regulations over the past 10 years for which agencies monetized both benefits and costs were between $269 billion and $872 billion, while the costs were between $74 billion and $110 billion, in 2014 dollars. OMB’s 2005 report to Congress estimated that major rules from the previous 10 years provided annual benefits of $69.6 billion to $276.8 billion, while costing between $34.8 billion and $39.4 billion.