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Transportation Department Launches Evaluation of Regulations Based on Biden Priorities

The department is seeking public input in order to align with two early executive orders from the president.

The Transportation Department is seeking public input on how it can possibly modify existing policies or regulations to better align with the Biden administration's priorities, specifically on public health and the environment. 

The department published a notification of regulatory review in the Federal Register on Wednesday to further two executive orders President Biden issued on his first day in office: “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” and “Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation.”

The Transportation Department is “currently reviewing its existing regulations and other agency actions to determine whether they are consistent with the policies and national objectives set forth in these executive orders,” wrote John Putnam, acting Transportation general counsel, in the notice. “As part of this review, the department invites the public to provide input on existing rules and other agency actions for the department's consideration regarding consistency with the policies and objectives of these executive orders.”

The department encourages comments to give specific references to regulations or agency actions, describe how the regulations or actions relate to the executive orders, suggest alternative actions and give examples of entities or projects that are, have been or could be “negatively affected by the identified regulation or other agency action.” Comments––which can be submitted by mail, in person, online or fax––are due by June 4. 

One of Biden’s executive orders “revokes harmful policies and directives that threaten to frustrate the federal government's ability to confront” the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, racial inequity and the economic recession. It directed the Office of Management and Budget and agency heads to “promptly take steps to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines or policies, or portions thereof, implementing or enforcing the executive orders” revoked. 

The executive order on science and public health ordered agency heads to review regulations, orders, guidance documents and policies issued between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021 to determine which ones may be inconsistent with or present obstacles to achieving the administration’s goals.

The Transportation Department’s request does not mention the Trump administration specifically, but the department and others have been taking various actions since January 20 to undo the previous administration's regulatory agenda, which was primarily focused on rollbacks. Many accused the Trump administration of being too lax on enforcement with its regulations and not doing enough to protect the environment and workers. 

For example, the Transport Workers Union of America, a division of AFL-CIO, said, “during his nearly four years in office [President Trump] has consistently taken policy and regulatory actions that hurt transportation workers,” in a document published in August 2020. “When it comes to regulation, his administration has repeatedly taken the side of wealthy corporate interests over the safety, job stability, collective bargaining rights, and security of transportation workers.” 

On March 24, Transportation issued a final rule deleting a slew of internal regulations and policies from the Trump administration about the rulemaking process and enforcement actions, which took effect on Monday. This move was also meant to further the early executive orders.

In a separate but related move, Democratic lawmakers are seeking to undo six “midnight” or last minute regulations from the Trump administration using the 1996 Congressional Review Act. 

Last week the Senate voted to repeal a methane emissions rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (with three Republicans joining the Democrats). Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy nonprofit, pointed out on Wednesday, “in a little over two weeks, the [Congressional Review Act] provisions enabling the Senate to act by simple majority will evaporate for the remaining five resolutions.” There isn't a deadline for the House to take up the resolutions.

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