Biden EPA asks DOJ to hit pause on defense of Trump-era rules

Source: By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill • Posted: Monday, January 25, 2021

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking the government to pump the brakes in its defense of Trump-era environmental rollbacks in court.

In a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained by The Hill, EPA’s acting general counsel Melissa Hoffer asks government lawyers to hit pause on cases where the previous administration has been challenged by environmental groups.

“This will confirm my request on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seek and obtain abeyances or stays of proceedings in pending litigation seeking judicial review of any EPA regulation promulgated between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021,” she writes.

The move is a way for the Biden administration to disavow the Trump rollbacks, buying time as they signal that they plan to issue their own regulations.

The Trump administration scaled back more than 170 environmental regulations while in office, according to a tally from The Washington Post, easing regulations on vehicle emissions and methane leaks from the oil and gas industry, and limiting how the EPA weighs public health data.

In an executive order issued on his first day in office, Biden signaled that he intends to review at least 58 rollbacks that were promulgated under Trump.

Hoffer’s request references two recent orders from Biden, one ordering a review of existing environmental regulations, and another that freezes all Trump-era rules that have not yet taken effect.

The reversal of stance in court comes as Biden’s Department of Justice takes over a dizzying number of suits, with many rules facing multiple suits from both attorneys general and various environmental groups.

Some may have progressed too far to be likely to secure the abeyance the EPA now suggests.

“For a case where an abeyance or stay of proceedings is not feasible, we request that DOJ seek extensions of time that are of sufficient duration to allow this review,” Hoffer writes.