Judge Nixes State Challenge to 2-for-1 Deregulation Push

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration’s two-for-one deregulation order survived a legal challenge Thursday by states that said it threatened greenhouse gas rules and an education program for low-income children, to name a few.

“Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing their standing to sue, yet, as to each of the four regulatory or deregulatory actions that they identify in their briefs and supporting materials, they have not shown that either the two-for-one rule or the annual cap caused the relevant agency to act or to decline to act,” U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss wrote.

The Valero Benicia Refinery in Benicia, Calif., is pictured here on July 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The 36-page opinion the Obama appointee is heavy on standing analysis, finding the states’ claims fail without an “essential link” between the two-for-one rule and the disputed regulatory actions. 

President Donald Trump signed the executive order in 2017, directing agencies to repeal two regulations for every new regulation put forward, and to cap the new regulation cost at zero. 

California, Oregon and Minnesota initially attempted to intervene in a challenge of the rule led by the nonprofit Public Citizen. Unsuccessful in that effort, they filed suit last year in Washington.

As one example of harm it attributed to the executive order, the states highlighted the Federal Highway Administration’s rollback of the Greenhouse Gas Performance Measure.

While the states predicted they would face “real and significant costs as a result of greenhouse gas-induced climate change,” the government claimed that the measure’s elimination would save up to $11 million over nine years.

The states also made the case that the executive order led to a delay issuing a new rule to lock in more stringent energy efficiency standards for residential cooking products, aimed at mitigating environmental damage.

“The states cite rising sea levels in California and Oregon, wildfires, and extreme weather including increased temperatures as particular causes of concern,” Moss wrote. 

Public Citizen lost its challenge in 2018, and the states met a similar fate Thursday, with Moss finding that they lacked Article III standing to sue the executive branch. 

Apart from the greenhouse gas rule, the states blamed Trump’s executive order with changing the education program Head Start to their detriment. 

While the Health and Human Services Administration had rolled back an Obama-era requirement that the program provide at least 1,020 hours of annual service to low-income children, Moss noted that this claim was rebutted by Colleen Rathgeb, director of policy, oversight and planning for Head Start.

“Rathgeb explains that the ability to achieve the 100% requirement without reducing the number of children served by Head Start was always contingent on Congress’s appropriation of additional funding; without it, reaching the 100% service duration requirement would require decreasing overall enrollment in Head Start,” Moss wrote.

With California in the mix, the case wouldn’t be complete without a highway claim. The state coalition argued that the deregulation mandate empowered the Trump administration to slow-roll a rule aimed at crash prevention, requiring that all new light vehicles include data-communication technology.

That rule’s delay, the states claimed, has “burdened, and will continue to burden, them with substantial costs resulting from otherwise avoidable light vehicle crashes.”

But Moss once again found that the states failed to tie their grievances over future car crashes to Article III standing. 

“Plaintiffs here have not demonstrated an imminent risk that the Executive Order will contribute to future delays in the finalization of the V2V rule,” Moss wrote.