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RIP: The regulations that Trump killed in 2017

Large and small, the Trump administration ended hundreds of regulations this year. It is not easy to list all of them, so here are twenty

Photo (c) WHITE HOUSE - Wikimedia Commons
President Donald Trump claims to have killed an unprecedented amount of regulations, in what he says is a victory for Americans and our freedom. Is it possible to list every single regulation we lost in 2017?

Both Harvard’s and Columbia’s law schools are tracking every environmental rollback they can find; a recent count says a total of 60 environmental regulations have been gutted in 2017. 

The Heartland Institute, a conservative think-tank, is also trying to keep track. They are listing everything Trump has done to “make freedom rise.” But their list unimpressively does not detail every miniscule freedom that rose.

In total, the Trump administration is taking credit for killing 860 regulations, though some reports indicate that Trump is exaggerating those numbers. 

So no, it turns out that it’s not realistic to list every regulation that Trump killed in 2017. What follows is a list of twenty unexpected freedoms you now have. Are you tired of disclosing how much money you paid to foreign governments or having to make aerosol sprays without toxic solvents? Then get ready America, because it’s going to be an awesome 2018!

Freedom to accidentally kill migratory birds
Companies that accidentally kill migratory birds, namely the energy industry, will no longer be criminally prosecuted, the Trump administration announced in December, leading a National Audubon Society officer to proclaim that “Christmas came early for bird killers.”

Freedom to bully farmers
The growing power of industrial farms and multinational corporations over American agriculture has been felt particularly by independent farmers. Numerous chicken growers, for instance, have described being “bullied into signing narrower and narrower contracts [with meatpackers] until their business was unsustainable,” the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) admitted in 2016.   

It was a rare acknowledgement from the USDA, an agency that is typically characterized as protecting the interests of Big Agriculture. But under the outgoing Obama administration, the USDA proposed a set of modest measures, called the  Farmer Fair Practices Rules, to make it easier for independent farmers to take legal action against the abusive meatpackers they described.

The USDA held off on implementing the rules after Trump issued a regulatory freeze, ordering all government agencies to not enact any new Obama-era regulations. A coalition of 82 groups representing family farms, unions and consumers wrote a letter asking Trump to preserve the reforms, saying their situations were dire under increasingly abusive multinational corporations.  Major players in the meatpacking industry, on the other hand, urged Trump to drop the Farmer Fair Practices Rules because they claimed the rules could lead to frivolous litigation. 

The Trump administration ultimately sided with the more powerful industry interests and shelved the Obama-era rules, a statement that could apply to many policy decisions in 2017. 

Freedom from educational oversight
The Every Student Succeeds Act was Obama’s answer to the Bush-era No Child Left Behind act. A key measure would have mandated that every state submit its own educational plan to address weaknesses and needs in its educational system, which the federal government at the time said would “give states flexibility to create their own educational visions.” Trump in March used his authority under the Congressional Review Act to overturn that and other education the measures, saying he was “removing an additional layer of bureaucracy to encourage freedom in our schools." 

Freedom from energy-efficient appliances
Makers of five different categories of appliances had agreed to new, tougher efficiency standards under Obama. But the industry wasn’t satisfied with everything. One appliance industry representative told the Washington Post that  “we are not particularly happy with the boiler rule,” though he was okay with Obama’s walk-in cooler and fridge rule. The Department of Energy under Trump withdrew the rules and got sued by coalition of environmental advocacy groups and 11 states in June. The DOE then brought back some, but not all, of the appliance conservation measures, saying it in the Federal Register that it “determined that it did not receive any adverse comments providing a basis for withdrawal.”

Freedom from more fuel-efficient vehicles
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing most major car companies, has been lobbying the Trump administration to strike down new fuel efficiency standards in vehicles that Obama finalized in 2012. The standards, set to go in effect by 2025, would have mandated that the average fleetwide fuel economy be 54.5 mpg. But in March, Trump agreed to take another look at the rules, the first step in possibly revoking them. A coalition of environmental and consumer advocacy groups wrote an open letter to automakers in October urging them to drop their lobbying campaign and stick with the tougher standards, but carmakers claim that following the regulations will cost too much money. 

Freedom for toxic solvents to remain in consumer products
Thousands of manmade chemicals have been “grandfathered” into consumer products under longtime federal laws that advocacy groups say are deeply outdated. But during Obama’s final days in office, the EPA proposed banning two toxic solvents,  trichloroethylene and methylene chloride, from paint thinners and aerosol sprays. Such a ban would have marked the first time that the EPA has prohibited use of a commercial chemical “in more than a quarter-century,” according to Chemical & Engineering news, the journal of the American Chemical Society. But the prohibition never happened. On December 14, Scott Pruitt’s EPA announced plans to postpone the ban on the toxic solvents indefinitely. 

Freedom to drug-test more people applying for unemployment benefits
States were traditionally banned from drug-testing people seeking unemployment benefits, until Obama passed a law allowing it in limited circumstances.  Congress voted this year to revoke that law, in hopes to expand the circumstances in which beneficiaries may be drug tested. 

Freedom from compensating Native American tribes for coal
The Interior Department under Obama had proposed rules to ensure that American Indian tribes receive “the maximum revenues” from coal mined on their land. Though the Obama administration claimed the rules would result in higher mineral payments to tribes, Trump’s analysis concluded it would not, claiming that “its scope is not broad enough to address the many concerns the commenters have raised about the Federal coal program more broadly.” Yet it was the coal industry that was behind the lobbying campaign to repeal the rules. 

Freedom to own a stake in for-profit colleges (even if you’re counseling veterans)
Veterans Affairs employees had long been prohibited from taking money from for-profit colleges. Taking money from the problematic institutions may lead VA employees to encourage veterans to choose them, the thinking went. That particular ethics law had been in effect for fifty years, but in October, the VA suddenly decided it created “illogical and unintended consequences.” 

Freedom to intensify deadly diseases
The New York Times discovered that the feds had lifted a three-year ban on experiments into altering deadly diseases. Some scientists apparently wanted to see whether it was possible to make deadly diseases more contagious. 

Freedom from getting sued by a customer (if you’re a bank)
Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in what experts said was the biggest overhaul of consumer banking measures under the Trump administration to date. "Senators who voted in favor of this resolution just handed a gift to bad financial actors," said Melissa Stegman, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending

Freedom from determining a leak threshold on respirator masks
This obscure Obama-era rule, attempting to establish a uniform label for determining whether a mask is leak-proof, was proposed in 2009 but never finalized. Under Trump, OSHA listened to concerns from mask respirator companies saying the regulation could exclude “good performing” products from the market.

Freedom from disclosing how much money you have given to foreign governments  (if you’re an oil Company)
Exxon was very happy when this rule got overturned. 

Freedom to dump waste in streams
Coal companies and others in the energy industry complained that the stream rule impeded their business. 

Freedom from disclosing how much you charge for luggage (if you’re an airline)
Customers typically prefer to know how much their bags will cost them when they are looking at ticket prices, but airlines would rather they find out just as they are buying tickets, at the last possible minute. Trump revoked this Obama-era regulation in December. 

Freedom to pool workers’ tips (if you’re the boss)
The Department of Labor is taking public comments on a proposal to bring back tipping pools, which the Obama administration had banned in 2011. If it goes through, employers can pool their servers’ tips once again, and will probably pocket about 16 percent of what servers earned, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

Freedom to discriminate (if you’re a business)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September filed an amicus brief in support of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado bakery currently trying to argue in the courts that it shouldn’t have to sell wedding cakes to gay couples. 

Freedom to build flood-prone roads
Many of the houses flooded in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey were not in official “flood zones” as designated by the federal government, meaning those homeowners won’t be eligible to receive flood insurance. Flooding has also plagued federal infrastructure such as a naval base in Norfolk. Addressing long-standing criticisms that the US government has not been preparing for rising sea levels, the Obama administration proposed a requirement that rising sea levels be taken into account before building (or rebuilding) federally-funded infrastructure. But ten days before Hurricane Harvey hit, Trump signed an executive order to revoke those flood standards, “in order to ensure that the Federal environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects is coordinated, predictable, and transparent.”

Freedom From new food labels (delayed until 2020)
Nutritionists want bigger nutrition labels that more clearly list calories per packaging and sugars. The labels would also include advice targeted to pregnant women and children under four. The new labels were supposed to be rolled out on packaged food in 2018, but the Trump administration pushed the date forward two years, which they say will give food companies more time to comply. 

Freedom to drive trucks, even if you have a tendency to spontaneously fall asleep
After several bad crashes involving train engineers or truck drivers, the Obama administration proposed testing professional drivers for sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that can impact one’s ability to stay awake during daytime. Incidence of the disease in Americans has risen dramatically over the years. The concern was that truck drivers who didn’t get a good night’s sleep due to sleep apnea may be prone to spontaneously falling asleep on their long, often unforgiving shifts. But the Department of Transportation in 2017 withdrew the proposal to require sleep apnea testing, saying only that “the Agencies have determined not to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking at this time.”

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