Changing EPA Policies in a Changing Environment


Claire Peterson

(Graphic by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chandler Joost, News Writer


In recent months, the Biden administration has sought to increase the size and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency. This was in response to the Trump administration’s policies that sought to diminish the influence of the EPA.

The EPA is tasked with regulating the production and manufacturing of chemicals and other pollutants. The agency enforces its regulations through fines and sanctions, among other methods.

The Trump administration favored an EPA policy that was more lenient toward businesses and the fossil fuel industry. The administration sought to limit the agency’s ability to enforce environmental regulations with various procedures such as the cost-benefit rule, which according to CNBC, “imposed restrictions on cost-benefit analyses for Clean Air Act rule making without explaining why those requirements were necessary.”

The Biden administration is currently in the process of reversing Trump-era EPA policies in an attempt to combat climate change and other issues the administration sees as imminent threats to the United States.

Juliet Carlisle, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, said the major change between the Trump-era EPA and the current administration’s EPA policies is who is in charge and how committed that person is to environmental protection.

“Trump appointed an EPA director who sought to dismantle the EPA from the inside and handicap its ability to do its job,” Carlisle said. “Biden has a goal to address the climate crisis and other environmental problems and knows the EPA has an important role in accomplishing this.”

Carlisle said federal policy can have a strong and direct impact on the environment.

“Particular policies are aimed at protecting the environment to greater and lesser degrees, for example,” she said. “However, some policies, not directly related to the environment, can still have an environmental impact.”

Every four to eight years when a new president takes office, the policy of that administration is adopted.

According to Carlisle, these changes from one administration to the next can frustrate goals and efforts towards environmental conservation.

“Presidents can nominate, and Congress approves cabinet officials,” she said. “Congressional majorities can influence what policies are introduced, voted on, and presidents decide what to sign or not sign into law … President Trump, for example, unilaterally [decided] to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Environmental change can occur quickly or rather slowly. The reality is that we are facing dire circumstances with climate change and the effects are here already.”

The environmental effects of these policies can be seen in Utah. For example, clean air initiatives are a common priority in the Salt Lake Valley, as the area is setting record lows for air quality this year alone.

“Trump-era policies reversed a lot of environmental protections,” Carlisle said. “One in particular, was to alter the Bear’s Ears Designation. Also, many of Trump’s rollbacks on regulations were with regard to fossil fuel production. Burning of fossil fuels has a direct and negative impact on climate, exacerbating the effects of climate change. In Utah, climate change has real and significant consequences to our state.”

For many in Utah — a state with five national parks — environmental protections are important. Moreover, a business-friendly atmosphere can be a priority for many, especially with high economic growth rates being seen in Utah and Washington counties in recent years, according to St. George News.

Tyler Boyles, the president of the U College Republicans, said he thinks Utah should be both pro-business and pro-environment.

“We don’t have to pick one or the other,” he said. “The Green New Deal is not a solution, and killing our environment is not the solution. The solution is allowing businesses to innovate and create new ways to be environmentally friendly.”

According to Boyles, the nation can see significant progress if companies and businesses are guided to create these solutions. He said this can be done without damaging the economy.

“I think that when you allow the private sector to innovate and incentivize them to create better, cleaner solutions you can be way more effective in making sure that we have a clean environment that we can pass on to our future generations,” he said.

Boyles said the Trump administration did a good job of ensuring this by making the U.S. energy-independent.

“We have to take common-sense approaches to the environment that can benefit both [business and the environment],” he said. “The American private sector is the most effective, and if big government got out of the way we could really see significant progress in climate and environmental solutions.”


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