Groups Sue Over Trump’s Executive Order on Cutting Regulations

Most voters think Trump is delivering so far. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America announced Wednesday that they filed a lawsuit seeking to block President Donald Trump’s executive order requiring two regulations to be rescinded each time a new one is introduced.

NRDC President Rhea Suh said in a statement that the executive order would lead to “irrational rules,” and that it “imposes a false choice between clean air, clean water, safe food and other environmental safeguards.”

The suit — filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — asked a federal judge to block the executive order that Trump signed on Jan. 30. Defendants in the lawsuit include the leaders of the Labor Department, the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget, and Trump himself.

The order “is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law,” the complaint said.

In a statement, Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said the order “would fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits.”

The executive order could impact a range of agencies that issue regulations on finance, energy and consumer safety, even though it doesn’t apply to independent agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Labor Department is one agency that has been involved in financial regulation and would be affected by the order. That agency has been partly responsible for issuing rules related to retirement security, such as the still-pending fiduciary rule for retirement investment advice.

Trump signed a separate executive order, not subject to Wednesday’s lawsuit, that paves the way for a rollback of that DOL regulation.

The order could also affect worker safety regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or auto safety rules from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to the complaint. The Environmental Protection Agency also comes under the order’s umbrella.

“The agencies cannot implement the Executive Order without violating the statutes from which they derive their rulemaking authority and the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits regulation that is arbitrary or in violation of the law,” a Public Citizen fact sheet on the lawsuit stated.

Jeff Holmstead, a partner at Bracewell LLC and former assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, downplayed the importance of the lawsuit, saying it didn’t make sense to sue over the executive order before an agency actually seeks to eliminate a regulation. Agencies may attract lawsuits when they seek to eliminate rules, but the executive order itself hasn’t pointed specifically to any regulations that would be cut, Holmstead said.

“This is a messaging lawsuit,” Holmstead said in an emailed statement. “They have no chance of winning.”

The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the pending litigation, has up to 60 days to reply to the complaint.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday that the lawsuit “presumes a lot of outcomes” that are inaccurate.

 

This story has been updated to include additional detail and a comment from Spicer.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated what day the lawsuit was filed, and it misidentified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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