The Trump administration is rushing to issue permits, finalize major environmental regulations and even sell the rights to drill for oil in Alaskan wilderness before Inauguration Day in a push that could complicate Joe Biden’s climate and conservation agenda.

The 11th-hour regulatory race underscores the extent to which federal agencies are anticipating Biden’s swearing-in as U.S. president on Jan. 20 even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede the election. It also reveals a widespread effort by Trump officials to leave their imprint on federal policy and — at least temporarily — tie the hands of their successors.

“Everyone has to be vigilant over the next 60-odd days because the administration can create more work for the people coming in,” said David Hayes, a former deputy Interior secretary who leads New York University’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. “They can take additional actions here that will put sand in the gears of the early Biden administration.”

Already, the Trump administration is poised as soon as Monday to advance plans for selling drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite Biden’s vow to protect that Alaskan wilderness. And officials are reviewing measures that would lift criminal penalties for accidentally killing migratory birds, lock in existing air pollution limits and make it harder to impose new environmental safeguards.

Altogether, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that is in charge of reviewing proposed rules is looking at 23 measures submitted just since Election Day, foreshadowing the coming deluge.

While Biden officials can unwind many Trump rules, that will consume time and resources, even as the incoming administration intends to write new measures regarding pollution, energy efficiency and drilling regulations.

And the Biden administration probably won’t have help from Congress immediately on overturning rules under the Congressional Review Act, since Republicans are likely to maintain control of the Senate. The law makes it easier to repeal last-minute regulations enacted by an outgoing administration.

“They have to clean up this huge mess that’s been deliberately left behind before they can even start advancing their affirmative agenda,” said James Goodwin, an analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform.

“The story for the last four years is how can we tear down these agencies and make them as useless as possible,” Goodwin said. “The next few weeks is going to be dedicated to that, and they will not miss a trick when it comes to making the Biden administration’s life a misery.”

For instance, the White House just began scrutinizing a final rule to end criminal penalties for oil explorers, homebuilders and other companies that accidentally kill migratory birds, setting the stage for the Interior Department to finalize the measure within weeks. And on Thursday, the White House started reviewing a rule defining the “habitat” that gets protection under the Endangered Species Act, just four weeks after the deadline for public comments on the proposed measure.

The Energy Department is trying to finish regulations weakening energy efficiency standards for furnaces and other appliances. That includes a rule greenlighting high-flow shower heads with multiple nozzles — a measure that drew momentum after Trump complained that with more efficient models “you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly.”

EPA Regulations
The Environmental Protection Agency is rushing to codify decisions to retain existing air quality limits on ozone and particulate matter, rebuffing public health advocates’ calls to tighten the pollution standards.

The administration also is propelling regulations that go to the heart of federal agencies’ power.

First « 1 2 » Next