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What the Sequester Means for Environmental Regulation

Since President Obama’s reelection, the Administration has made its intention to pursue a robust environmental regulatory agenda well known. With a host of environmental regulations, including GHG emission limitations for new and existing power plants, emissions limitations for hazardous air pollutants from power plants, and rules governing hydraulic fracturing in various stages of development, it appeared as though 2013 would be a year of significant regulatory action by the EPA.

However, on March 1, 2013, across the board federal spending cuts totaling $75 billion went into effect potentially disrupting EPA’s regulatory agenda.  These cuts, called the “sequester,” have left federal agencies scrambling to implement the cuts while still fulfilling their duties.  Nearly every federal agency, including the EPA, is furloughing employees for some length of time.  At the EPA, all employees could be furloughed by as much as thirteen days by the end of 2013.  While these furloughs will be staggered, with approximately 17,000 employees, these furloughs could amount to a loss of 221,000 employee-work days at EPA.

The exact effects of the sequester on federal operations is not entirely clear, and is in many ways a moving target.  However, there are several potential impacts on environmental regulation.  First, there may be a slow down in the finalization of proposed regulations.  Many of the regulations which EPA has issued for comment or is committed to finalize in the near future, such as GHG emission limits for new and existing power plants, are controversial and legally complex and have generated tens and hundreds of thousands of public comments, which must be reviewed and responded to by EPA.  Reduced staff resources at EPA from the sequester may delay the finalization of these regulations.  Furthermore, every rule from a federal agency must be vetted by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) prior to being finalized.  OMB is also subject to the sequester and has notified its employees that they will have to take ten furlough days this fiscal year.  This adds another level of potential delay to the issuance of any new environmental regulations as EPA has sent a large amount of regulations to OMB that are currently awaiting analysis.  Many of these regulations have already been at OMB for months and the sequester is unlikely to move this process along.  However, not all rulemakings and regulations will, necessarily, be equally impacted.  EPA may choose to focus its resources on finalizing high priority or high profile regulations, such as GHG emission limits for power plants, at the expense of other regulations.

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6 thoughts on “What the Sequester Means for Environmental Regulation

  1. Maybe a slow down of environmental regulatons would be a good thing. There are so many now it is difficult for business, private property owners and new development to clear them all.

  2. When I read the title to the article I was excited to see that yet more good had come from the sequester (that our Dear Leader created to try to bully the Repubics). Less government work days can be nothing but a net positive for the economy. If this continues the hoax of Anthropogenic Global Warming may actually sink into the populous before the EPA can further cripple this once prosperous country. Fear not watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) the Feds will still find time to kill fracking (since that is one of the few bright spots in the national economy) ….sequester or no sequester.

  3. Most of them do not work that hard to start with, so you mean in 13 less days they could still not get everything done they would have anyway.

    Do not know why this article was written, all just a bunch of maybes.

  4. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is not a hoax.
    The EPA is not crippling this country.
    The sequester was not created by the President.

    Any other lies or distortions that you wish to air?

  5. Doug, the sequester was created by the President to get the Repubics to go along with the Debt Ceiling increase to $16.5T so that they could keep printing money until the election. He assumed that the Repubics would role over and approve his tax increases once he was re-elected. However, look at it this way, I was giving him credit for actually decreasing the rate of increase in spending for the first time in his administration (note that I didn’t say decreasing spending because even with the sequester “cuts” Federal spending still increases by 3% over last year.

    As to the hoax of AGW, I’ll ask a simple question… What is the correct temperature of the earth? And BTW, what have humans done over the billions of years that the planet has existed to alter the temperature? Both simple questions that I am sure are easily answerable by the AGW / GHG crowd.

  6. AGW has long since been endorsed by the vast majority of climate science experts – about 98% of top climate scientists accept the hypothesis that anthropogenic CO2 equivalent emissions are affecting the climate with negative and widespread impacts to our civilization. Look it up dude.
    President Obama did not create the sequester – period. The executive branch of government has no control over the pursestrings – that is solely the prerogative of the congress. That’s stated in the constitution in black and white.

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