Public interest groups spoke out Monday about a White House event at which Vice President Mike Pence touted the Trump administration's deregulation efforts. President Donald Trump did not attend the "Cut the Red Tape" event due to the attack in Las Vegas, but the meeting went on as planned with the White House barring the press from the room.
The administration has demonstrated repeatedly since Trump took office in January that it aims to roll back safeguards put in place by the Obama administration in a number of areas. The president announced early in his term that he would offset any new regulation by scrapping two existing regulations. According to an analysis by Reuters, federal agencies have so far taken 25 deregulatory steps, affecting infrastructure projects, the environment, and workers in a wide variety of sectors.
"They've ignored the evidence and put the interests of industry lobbyists over public health and safety."—Andrew Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists
Regarding the climate, in addition to withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change, Trump has rolled back President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, scrapped his rules limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants, and reversed a policy banning national parks from selling bottled water.
The Union of Concerned Scientists released a statement on the need for environmental protections like the one Trump has been eliminating. "These critical safeguards were created based on the best available science and public input, but now they're being quickly and carelessly deleted," said Andrew Rosenberg of the group's Center for Science and Democracy. "They've ignored the evidence and put the interests of industry lobbyists over public health and safety. These changes will put Americans at risk, yet the president and vice president see this as an opportunity to take a victory lap."
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Pointing to the recent example of a chemical plant explosion in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Rosenberg added, "The rush to undo these rules has real, damaging consequences. Communities near chemical facilities will have less information about the risks they face—raising the danger to families and first responders in the case of accidents like the recent Arkema explosion in Houston...The vice president may tout it as an accomplishment that the administration has derailed so many public health and safety protections. For the rest of us, though—particularly for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color—this is no victory. It's a willful failure by the administration to do its job protecting Americans."
The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) was among those pushing back against the familiar Republican argument that deregulating industries is somehow a cost-saving maneuver.
"Over-regulation was not the problem that led to banks creating the mortgage crisis, that in turn resulted in the loss of 200,000 small businesses and 8.7 million jobs throughout the United States," pointed out Richard Eidlin, co-founder of the ASBC. "The Trump administration's deregulation approach based on the arbitrary benchmark of eliminating 'two existing regulations for every one new regulation' is ill-conceived and will not achieve meaningful regulatory reform. Placing focus solely on the costs of compliance instead of the benefits to society contradicts the goals of many of the laws that enable these regulations."
The government watchdog group Public Citizen called Trump's deregulation agenda a "craven attempt at self-enrichment and payback to corporate donors," adding, "in fact, robust regulation and enforcement are essential to economic prosperity."