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New Executive Order on Regulations Sparks Lawsuit

Several groups have mounted a court challenge to President Trump's executive order to cut back on federal regulations. (
Several groups have mounted a court challenge to President Trump's executive order to cut back on federal regulations. (
February 10, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Public-interest law, environmental and labor groups are suing to stop the Trump administration's executive order to cut government regulations.

The order signed Jan. 30 requires federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one enacted, and that new regulations must have a net cost of zero in the current fiscal year -- without considering the value of benefits to public health and safety. According to Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, that would require agencies to violate existing law governing the regulatory process as well as the Administrative Procedure Act.

"The Administrative Procedure Act says they are not permitted to engage in decisions that are arbitrary and capricious," he said. "This executive order requires them to take into account irrational factors, things that exactly fit that definition."

Supporters of Trump's executive order say it will clear away unnecessary regulations that hamper the growth of small businesses and cripple the economy.

David Goldston, the Natural Resources Defense Council's director of public affairs, said the two-for-one requirement can't help but stymie the issuing of new regulations. He pointed to last year's update of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the first major revision in 40 years.

"Why would finally catching up with chemicals that have been on the market for decades mean that we don't need a clean-air regulation or a clean-water regulation," he said, "or, for that matter, a regulation for another chemical?"

Goldston said the executive order puts industry's concerns about the cost of complying with regulations ahead of the public's concerns about the problem that the regulation is trying to solve.

Weissman said reports by the White House Office of Management and Budget consistently have found that the benefits of regulations are significant.

"The most significant rules adopted have benefits that outweigh costs as much as 14 to one," he said. "But if you look at the big rules, the benefits maybe are 10 times or more greater than the costs."

The lawsuit challenging the executive order was filed Wednesday morning in the federal district court in Washington, D.C.

More information is online at

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD