Trump has been successfully undermining our environmental protections. He has been doing that not by passing new laws (although, as outlined in this post, we are getting ready for that), but by watering down the regulations that require businesses to meet the laws.
One way we can defend the environment is by submitting comments to the agencies that are modifying the regulations that keep our air and water clean.
By law, the agency has to consider public comments. I always wondered what effect comments have, and now I have found out, thanks to a group of former EPA employees who’ve banded together, called Save EPA. They wrote a resistance manual, A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump De-regulatory Agenda, with practical tips on how to submit comments, and what happens with those comments.
I was encouraged by what they have to tell us, and wanted to pass on these key points:
- The comments gathered form an “administrative record” that can be used by a court to overturn an agency’s decision to roll back or weaken a rule. This alone is good reason to submit a comment.
- Public comments can show that the regulation under attack has strong public support. Trump appointees may not care much about public opinion, but members of Congress do.
- If a hearing to roll back a regulation is being held near us, we should use it as a rallying point and to get press and public attention.
- The more of us that comment, the more we make clear that there are political consequences for taking away our protections.
- Agencies don’t have a free hand in making or rolling back regulations. They must comply with the laws authorizing the regulation and governing the rulemaking process.
- Federal law requires an agency to collect and analyze scientific, technical, economic and other information relevant to the rule, and make decisions that make sense in light of that info. If they don’t do this, their decisions can be overturned by a court.
- The agency must consider all the public comments it receives in making final decisions about a rule, and respond to all significant comments in issuing its final rule. Significant comments are those that make substantive points, such as providing new information, making arguments for how and why the proposal should be changed, or pointing out flawed decision-making.
- If the agency fails to respond to a good point you’ve made — a well-supported argument— the final rule may be vulnerable to a lawsuit, likely from a public interest group.
- We may be able to add political heft to our comments by asking our Members of Congress to comment and/or make a public statement along the same lines.
Save EPA now alerts us when comment periods open on rule changes, so we’ll know when we need to take action.