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The biggest federal regulations that have disappeared under Trump

President Trump's rollback of dozens of regulations throughout the federal government is a major part of his first-year legacy. Hundreds of others set to take effect have been frozen or withdrawn. Hari Sreenivasan talks with Eric Lipton of The New York Times about some of the biggest changes when it comes to energy and the environment, financial regulation and the Internet.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to our continuing look at the first year of the Trump presidency.

    There has been much focus on the president's track record when it comes to Congress and legislation that he has tried to pass. But just as notable is a major rollback of regulations throughout the federal government.

    Some businesses have praised those moves, and the president has said that they will lead to greater economic growth and job creation. Many critics, however, worry that important protections are being lost.

    Hari Sreenivasan zeros in on some of these changes and how you might be affected.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    During the campaign, President Trump pledged to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one. After his first year, he seems to be well past that mark.

    There are dozens of regulations and rules once on the books that are now revoked, and there are hundreds of others that were set to take effect or were planned that are essentially frozen or withdrawn.

    In fact, it's far more than we can cover in one segment, but we're going to look at a few of the major ones, particularly when it comes to the energy and environment.

    Eric Lipton has covered this extensively for The New York Times, and he joins me now.

    Eric, you and your colleagues have focused a lot on the energy and environment, the impact of the rules, or lack thereof.

    But let's start with the EPA. What are some of the big rule changes that Americans are going to feel?

  • Eric Lipton:

    One of the things that the Obama administration was trying to do was reduce emissions from oil and gas operations and any groundwater contamination and other effects.

    So, for example, there was a rule on methane emissions from oil and gas facilities and also in terms of regulating fracking done on federal lands. Both those rules are either gone or in the process of being eliminated.

    There was also a moratorium on new coal mines being leased from federal property in the United States. That moratorium has been lifted. And there was a change in royalties, so that anyone that was going to be taking coal from federal lands was going to have to pay a greater rate to compensate the American citizens for the use of that coal. And that rule has been revoked as well.

    So those are just a few in the environmental. There's more than 60 that we have counted up that have already been eliminated or are in the process of being eliminated just in the environmental sector.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And it changes the landscape, literally, when you combine this with measures that the Department of Interior has been taking.

  • Eric Lipton:

    I mean, the Department of Interior, for example, in that sector, there was a rule that prohibited the filling of rivers and streams near coal mines, just simply taking the fill and dropping it into valleys where there were streams. That rule was revoked by Congress early on, with the support of President Trump.

    And others in coal mining have to do with regulations relative to workers that are being looked at. So, across all sectors of the economy, we are seeing changes that are taking place, most of which has to do with new rules that were being planned that are now being put on inactive status and not being finalized.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    How do you measure the impact of some of these changes?

    Does the EPA lack the teeth it once had? Are there different injunctive measures being taken or is there a decrease in the frequency of the type of cases that the EPA is bringing?

  • Eric Lipton:

    Yes, not only are we seeing rules being rolled back, but we're also seeing a reduction in enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency, for example.

    We have seen fewer cases initiated. I spent time in Ohio, where there was a community where there was two different kinds of pollution occurring in the community, a hazardous incinerator — a hazardous waste incinerator that was there that had been chronically sending toxic pollutants into the air on one side of town.

    On the other side of the town, there was a metal ingredient processing plant that was sending manganese into the air in a way that some thought was threatening the health of local children.

    And there has been no action to finalize enforcement against these companies. And we saw lots of cases where there has been a decline in the number of initiated cases and in the value of the fines being collected so far under the new administration.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of the big changes that people did hear about were net neutrality rules. What factored into that?

  • Eric Lipton:

    Well, at the Federal Communications Commission, which has been, like the EPA, one of the most active players so far in rolling back rules, the Federal Communications Commission moved late last year to revoke a law, a rule that was adopted during the Obama administration that put limits on the ability of your broadband providers to cap the rate at which data moves across the Internet depending on who the provider is.

    And the rule was called net neutrality. And it affects — ultimately could affect how quickly you can get access to various Internet sites. And the FCC revoked — has revoked that rule, although there is already movement in Congress now to try to overturn that action by the Federal Communications Commission.

    And the Federal Communications Commission is also revoking rules that prohibit the merger of broadcasters over the federally controlled airwaves. And they're pulling back rules that have been in place in some cases for decades to allow more consolidation of the broadcasters in the United States.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I should point out that there are several industries and companies that are very happy with these rule changes. This is one of the first years that CEOs have said that regulation is not top of mind for one of their concerns on what could affect their bottom lines.

  • Eric Lipton:

    It's certainly the case.

    And this is quite welcomed by the business community. And businesses citing it as perhaps an explanation as to why they're willing to make expansion decisions right now, because they feel as if fewer new rules are going to be thrown at them.

    And it has brought more of a predictability for the business community in terms of trying to estimate how much it is going to cost to comply with the whole range of federal rules.

    And we also did a piece that looked at some apple farmers, and the many, many layers of rules that the federal government has. And at times, the federal government can go overboard in terms of demanding so many things that different business sectors do to try to comply with public safety and public health.

    But, usually, there's a reason why different rules exist. And there are various folks in the environmental community, Democratic state attorney generals who are trying to challenge some of these rollbacks who think that public health and financial stability is potentially at risk because of some of these rollbacks.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right, Eric Lipton of The New York Times, thanks so much.

  • Eric Lipton:

    Thank you.

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