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Unpacking the New Executive Orders

Editor’s Note:  This is a reprint of information sent directly to state drinking water program administrators on January 25.  The only update is the link to the Federal Register Notice that delayed 30 EPA regulatory actions.
So much has happened in the past week related to how EPA has been directed to change the way they do business which may have an impact on the way state drinking water program implement their programs.  ASDWA has broken the actions into three separate but related categories to offer some context.
EPA Review/Freeze of Grants and Contracts
As called for by the new Administration, an ongoing review/freeze of EPA grants and contracts has created more uncertainty with state agencies and national associations.  ASDWA has learned that EPA staff, in tandem with the Administration’s transition team, diligently has been reviewing grants and contracts information.
The good news for state drinking water programs is that, pursuant to those reviews, the Agency is continuing to award the environmental program grants and state revolving loan fund grants to the states and tribes.  EPA staff and the transition team are working to quickly address issues related to other categories of grants.  The goal is to complete the grants and contracts review by the close of business on Friday, January 27.  A recent Washington Post story provides a more detailed narrative about this review. ASDWA will continue to provide updates as this issue unfolds.
The Regulatory Freeze Memo
The January 20 memo to the heads of all the executive departments and agencies on behalf of the President called for a halt on regulatory actions that had not been finalized as of that date.  The purpose was to ensure that the President’s appointees or designees can review any new or pending regulations or guidances that set forth a policy or interpret statutes or regulations before becoming law.  The memo required that department and agency heads immediately take the following steps:

  1. Send no regulation to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) until a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President (or their appointee) reviews and approves the regulation.
  1. Withdraw regulations that have been sent to the OFR but not published in the Federal Register in accord with OFR procedures.
  1. Temporarily postpone the effective date by 60 days of regulations that have been published by the OFR but have not taken effect to allow the time for reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise; consider proposing a rule to delay the effective date for regulations beyond that 60-day period for notice and comment; and potentially propose further notice-and-comment rulemaking where the effective date has been delayed for reviewing questions of fact, law, or policy.
  1. Exclude from the actions requested in paragraphs 1 through 3 any regulations subject to statutory or judicial deadlines and identify such exclusions to the OMB Director as soon as possible.
  1. Notify the OMB Director promptly of any regulations that should be excluded from the directives in paragraphs 1 through 3 because of emergency situations or urgent circumstances for the OMB Director’s review and determination.
  1. Continue in all circumstances to comply with any applicable Executive Orders concerning regulatory management.

Visit the White House website to read the full memo and view other recent Presidential actions.
EPA Delays 30 Regulatory Actions
This week in the Federal Register, EPA published an announcement entitled, “Delay of Effective Date for 30 Final Regulations Published by the Environmental Protection Agency between October 28, 2016 and January 17, 2017.”  The document lists 30 regulations that will be delayed.  It does not include any drinking water related actions, but does delay Kentucky’s UIC primacy program approval, certifications of pesticide applicators, various state air plan approvals, and other items.  To view the list, please see the FR notice.