Environment 2021: What Comes Next?

James M. McElfish, Jr., and Jay Austin
Date Released
July 2020
Environment 2021

The Trump Administration has taken dramatic and sweeping steps to remake federal environmental regulation and redefine the relationships among state and federal environmental decisions. This report, which assesses these steps, helps environmental practitioners, policymakers, and the public-at-large think about what lies ahead, looking particularly at our nation’s ability to address new problems and confront as yet unsolved challenges like environmental justice. The report identifies key categories of action affecting environmental regulation and examines some possible future outcomes. It begins with a set of chapters focusing on regulatory processes, including both familiar Administrative Procedure Act processes and changes to these processes, followed by chapters on proposed or recently adopted changes dealing with issues such as use of science, enforcement, and use of environmental information. The remaining chapters examine recent efforts to limit federal and state authority in substantive areas of law, and gives additional attention to recent developments in chemical regulation, federal natural resource management decisions and changes, and environmental justice. Each chapter explains the law and recent regulatory and deregulatory activities, identifies why these have significance and how they relate to other aspects of environmental governance, and offers some observations about future alternative paths. The report makes no assumptions about this fall’s electoral outcomes, but does explore the sensitivity of the various regulatory reform efforts to different electoral outcomes. The report follows two previous ELI reports that describe the regulatory reform efforts of the Trump Administration in the environmental setting: Regulatory Reform in the Trump Era (2017); and Environmental Protection in the Trump Era (2018) (ELI, with the ABA’s Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice).

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