Since President Donald Trump took office, he has put regulations–and the federal agencies that issue these vital public safeguards–squarely in his crosshairs.
Parroting the talking points of big corporations, he has erroneously claimed that regulations cost jobs and dampen business ingenuity.
Trump is dead wrong. So when on Jan. 30 he issued an executive order arbitrarily directing that federal agencies could issue new regulations only if they repealed two existing ones, Public Citizen took action to block the order.
On Feb. 8, Public Citizen, joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Communications Workers of America, sued the Trump administration over the executive order.
The “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” order requires the cost of new rules to be offset by the elimination of at least two other rules, yielding a net cost of $0, and without consideration of the benefits afforded by the rules. In practice, this order will weaken, deter, or delay federal agencies from issuing new health, safety, environmental, consumer finance and worker protections.
No one thinking sensibly about how to set rules for health, safety, the environment and the economy would ever issue this executive order. The goal is clearly to confer enormous benefits on big business. 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.
The complaint, 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 suit alleges that the agencies cannot legally comply with the president’s order because doing so would violate the statutes under which the agencies operate and the Administrative Procedure Act. No federal statute authorizes an agency to condition issuance of a new rule to address harms to public safety, health or other statutory objectives on the relative costs of existing rules unrelated to the new rule.
Lawyers at Public Citizen Litigation Group are serving as lead counsel for the plaintiffs, who are asking the court to declare that the executive order violates the Constitution. They also seek an injunction barring agencies from implementing the order. That Trump plans to cut regulations is not news, but his objective will only benefit companies, not the people that he has promised to serve.
For instance, Trump and his top regulatory adviser, the financial mogul Carl Icahn, have untruthfully claimed that regulations are choking the American economy, citing debunked research concluding that regulations cost $2 trillion a year. But a 2016 report from the 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.
Regulatory protections are crucial for protecting the public and stopping corporate abuse. Without strong regulations, dirty energy companies would be able to pollute more, Wall Street banks would be better positioned to rip off consumers, chemical corporations would expose their workers to more poisons, drug companies would be empowered to continue price gouging and auto makers would sell unsafe vehicles.”