On April 22, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden will nominate Tracy Stone-Manning to head up the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal agency charged with overseeing national monuments and other public lands, as well as key aspects of energy development.
A longtime conservation advocate, Stone-Manning has worked for the National Wildlife Federation, served as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and advisor to Sen. Jon Tester, and led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality.
If confirmed, she will oversee an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior that was used and abused by the Trump administration, Interior Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, and Acting BLM Director William Pendley, who was removed from the post after serving illegally for more than a year. During the previous administration, the agency shrank national monuments, threw open the doors to fossil fuel extraction, and revoked vital climate and other pressing conservation measures.
As she takes office, Stone-Manning can begin to reverse harmful policies and ensure our public lands are conserved and used in ways that benefit us all.
Here are five priorities she and the agency should act on right away:
Notwithstanding the Freedom of Information Act's primary goal of promoting transparency in government decision-making, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled by a 7-to-2 vote that the public policy of facilitating agency candor in exercising its expertise in preliminary agency deliberations can outweigh such transparency and accountability concerns. Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the 11-page opinion, her first majority opinion since joining the court in October. It was a natural debut given that the case, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, was the first oral argument that Barrett heard after joining the bench.
The case presented the question of whether FOIA's deliberative-process privilege exempts from disclosure certain documents prepared during a statutorily required interagency consultation process between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service …
This commentary was originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Throughout his time in office, President Donald J. Trump has boasted about cutting regulations.
His antagonism to environmental regulation has been particularly virulent and incessant. By one count, Trump Administration agencies have initiated or completed 100 environmental rollbacks. By thwarting often bipartisan legislative environmental protection goals adopted over the course of 50 years, President Trump's actions create serious threats to public health and environmental integrity. The Administration's suppression of public participation in regulatory decision-making has also undercut the ability of people and communities harmed by the Administration's deregulatory frenzy to protect themselves.
These anti-environmental and anti-democratic practices converged in the Administration's recent revisions to the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Often referred to as the Magna Carta of U.S. environmental law, NEPA has two main goals …
Originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Much of the discussion of the Trump administration's failed handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on its delayed, and then insufficiently urgent, response, as well as the President's apparent effort to talk and tweet the virus into submission. All are fair criticisms. But the bungled initial response—or lack of response—was made immeasurably worse by the administration's confused and confusing allocation of authority to perform or supervise tasks essential to reducing the virus's damaging effects. Those mistakes hold important lessons.
The administration's management of the pandemic has been hampered by misallocation of authority along three different but interacting dimensions. First, it has been marred by overlapping authority that has resulted in waste, while failing to capitalize on this overlap's potential to safeguard against shirking and inaction. Second, it has reflected a thoughtless mix of centralized and …
The Trump administration has fired the latest salvo in its never-ending assault on environmental safeguards: a proposal from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to overhaul its regulations governing federal agency compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The proposal would narrow the scope of NEPA’s protections, weaken federal agency duties when the law applies, and attempt to shield violations of NEPA from judicial oversight. More significantly, the proposal is wildly inconsistent with NEPA’s most fundamental goal: fostering deliberation and democratic participation to improve the government’s capacity to promote social welfare.
NEPA relies on four key mechanisms.
First, it directs all federal agencies to accompany proposals for “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment” with a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) comparing the environmental impacts of the proposed action …
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Ever since Ronald Reagan declared government to be the problem rather than the solution, the federal bureaucracy has been the target of criticism from right-leaning think tanks, regulatory skeptics in academia, and politicians of all political persuasions. Lately, members of the federal judiciary have visibly joined this chorus of criticism.
Among the charges leveled against regulation and the agencies responsible for issuing and enforcing rules is the claim that, even assuming the validity of regulatory goals, traditional regulatory approaches too often fail to achieve them or impose unjustified social costs. Others assert that regulatory "intrusions" on the operation of the free market are antithetical to the protection of individual liberty and the economic system on which our nation was built.
We take a different view.
Government regulation serves a critical role in promoting the public interest by, for …
For five decades California and the federal government have worked together in an innovative exercise in federalism aimed at achieving cleaner air. California has played an important role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, particularly from motor vehicles.
But now, contrary to law and in a massive departure from past practice, President Donald Trump has announced that his administration is pulling the rug out from under California's feet by divesting it of its longstanding authority to adopt auto emission controls more stringent than the Environmental Protection Agency's.
The action, implemented jointly by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Administration, couldn't come at a worse time. Less than a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called "ambitious mitigation actions" indispensable to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees …
Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
At the outset of the Trump Administration, policymakers of all stripes hoped infrastructure might be an issue on which Congress and the President could reach bipartisan agreement. President Donald J. Trump stressed infrastructure needs during and after the 2016 election, and members of Congress from both parties asserted that repairing and upgrading infrastructure was a top priority. Recently, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats claimed to make progress over the possibility of a $2 trillion infrastructure package. But more than two years into the Trump presidency, the nation has little to show for all that talk, aside from unworkable policies and elusive proposals.
The United States clearly needs a nationwide effort to repair existing roads and bridges, upgrade public transportation systems, build out green infrastructure, and retrofit private and public buildings for the energy future. The government has …
The Trump administration's push to boost fossil fuel extraction has received a major setback. On March 29, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled invalid Trump's order lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the the Arctic Ocean and along parts of the North Atlantic coast. Gleason held that the relevant law – the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – authorizes presidents to withdraw offshore lands from use for energy development, but not to reverse such decisions by past administrations.
If this ruling is upheld on appeal, it would bolster lawsuits contesting another controversial action by President Trump: Removing some 2 million acres from the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, which were created by Presidents Obama and Clinton respectively under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
As scholars of environmental and …
The bald eagle, sea otter, timber wolf — these iconic animals and more have been saved by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). But the Trump administration doesn't seem to care about our country's natural heritage. It's using questionable arguments about the popular law in an effort to gut protections and convert our public lands into private assets.
The administration's destructive intent is apparent in the proposed revisions to the ESA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries. These changes appear to be aimed at providing more opportunities for business interests to influence conservation decisions. Indeed, the administration has proposed to turn the law on its head by allowing consideration of economic impacts in listing decisions, restricting …