By Rhea Suh, Natural Resources Defense Council
Imagine a doctor declaring we can’t find a cure for cancer unless we abandon vaccines for polio and smallpox. Or a cop who will only enforce speed limits if we get rid of stop signs and traffic lights. Or a housing inspector who won’t check for a leaky roof unless he can skip the plumbing and wiring.
That’s absurd, of course, but it’s precisely the approach President Trump wants our government to follow in developing safeguards that protect clean air and water, worker safety, children’s health, the quality of our food and drugs, and much more.
Under an executive order Trump signed on January 30, for every new rule, standard, or regulation a federal agency puts in place to defend our families, workers, and communities from harm, at least two existing measures must be scrapped, regardless of the benefits they provide. It’s all about cutting costs for corporations and making the rest of us pay the price—in the form of rising healthcare expenses, for example, injury, financial fraud, or sick days missed from work or school.
There are many words that might describe this approach: Sensible is not one of them.
Trump’s executive order flies in the face of common sense. It ignores the public benefits and purpose of the standards, regulations, and rules put in place to enforce laws passed by our Congress to protect our safety, environment, and health.
The order goes beyond the president’s authority under the Constitution, rewriting laws by personal fiat rather than through a constitutional process. It would require federal agencies to violate both their legal obligations to protect the public and the process the law requires them to follow in doing so. And it would put Americans at greater risk in our homes, on the job, and at school by freezing or delaying new rules to protect us from emerging threats and by subjecting existing protections to repeal.
That’s why NRDC joined today with two other groups—Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, and the Communications Workers of America—in filing a lawsuit seeking to block Trump’s unlawful decree. In our suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital, we’ve asked that the administration be stopped from implementing and enforcing the order.
Tell Donald Trump that you will fight his disastrous anti-environment agenda every step of the way
Nobody wants overregulation. Our federal government, though, has no higher obligation than to protect the health and safety of our people. It does so through agencies that implement and enforce clear rules of the road. Every regulation must be grounded in law that was duly passed by Congress. They are then developed using the best available science in a transparent process centered on public notice, review, and comment.
The result is a system of rules that provide us with the safe, healthy, and predictable conditions we need to prosper and thrive as a society. Those benefits, on balance, far outweigh the costs of implementing the safeguards.
The Clean Air Act, for example, averts more than 230,000 preventable deaths, 86,000 emergency room visits, and more than 16 million lost days of work or school every year. That saves the country up to $2 trillion annually, or 30 times as much as it costs to comply with our clean air laws.
Under Trump’s order, those benefits—the very point of the regulation—would be ignored, as agencies are directed to find at least two regulations to cancel for every new one they adopt.
Trump’s help-one-harm-two deal puts Americans last—and puts our health and safety at risk. We’re confident the court will agree.