The Communication Workers of America (CWA) joined Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in suing the Trump administration to block implementation of a recent executive order requiring federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one that they issue.
The plaintiffs are concerned that the executive order will diminish protections against discrimination, public health, worker safety, consumer protection, and the quality of the environment.
CWA President Chris Shelton said that Trump’s so-called “one in, two out” Executive Order imperils worker safety by requiring the elimination of existing job safety regulations when the need arises to write new ones.
“This order means that the asbestos workplace standard, for example, could be discarded in order to adopt safeguards for nurses from infectious diseases in their workplaces,” said Shelton. “This violates the mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers’ safety and health. It also violates common sense.”
While President Trump touted his executive order as a boon to small business, the bulk of the order’s benefits will go to large corporations.
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman blasted Trump’s order as a gift to big business at the expense of workers, public health, consumers, and the environment.
“No one thinking sensibly about how to set rules for health, safety, the environment, and the economy would ever adopt the Trump Executive Order approach–unless their only goal was to confer enormous benefits on big business,” said Weissman. “If implemented, the order would result in lasting damage to our government’s ability to save lives, protect our environment, police Wall Street, keep consumers safe, and fight discrimination.”
Weissman also criticized Trump’s Executive Order for establishing a new regulatory budgeting system that requires the net cost of new regulations to be zero, meaning that agencies must offset the cost of the new regulations by cutting existing regulations.
“By irrationally directing agencies to consider costs but not benefits of new rules, it would fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits,” Weissman said.
The public benefits of regulations are often ignored, but according to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the public benefits of regulations often far exceeded their costs.
OMB has developed a methodology for estimating the costs and benefits of regulations and reports this information to Congress.
Project on Government Oversights reports that the draft of OMB’s most recent report estimates that the annual public benefit of all major regulations over the last ten years amounts to between $208 billion and $627 billion; on the other hand, the cost of these regulations ranges from $57 billion to $85 billion.
In 2005 when the OMB was headed by a Republican appointee of President George W. Bush, its cost-benefit analysis of regulations found that the annual benefits over a ten-year period amounted to between $69.6 billion and $276.8 billion while the costs ranged from $34.8 billion to $39.4 billion.
In addition to ignoring the public benefits of regulations, the Trump Executive Order forces agencies to make what Rhea Suh, president of the National Resources Defense Council, calls the “false choice” of determining what public benefits must be sacrificed in order to write a new regulations.
“President Trump’s order would deny Americans the basic protections they rightly expect,” said Suh. “New efforts to stop pollution don’t automatically make old ones unnecessary.”
The plaintiffs’ suit if successful will prevent agencies from being forced to make these kinds of false choices.
The lawsuit was filed on February 8 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. According to a statement issued by the plaintiffs, “the complaint alleges that . . . agencies cannot lawfully comply with the president’s order because doing so would violate the statutes under which the agencies operate and the Administrative Procedure Act.”
“When presidents overreach, it is up to the courts to remind them no one is above the law and hold them to the US Constitution,” said Patti Goldman, an Earthjustice attorney and one of the attorneys working for the plaintiffs. “This is one of those times.”