Tracking Biden’s environmental actions

The new president is unwinding Trump’s climate change legacy while forging his own.

President Biden placed climate change squarely at the center of his White House agenda on Wednesday, using his first hours in office to rejoin the Paris climate accord and begin overturning more than 100 environmental actions taken by the Trump administration.

Administration officials are suggesting that they will go well beyond reversing Trump’s policies. On Thursday U.S. presidential climate envoy John F. Kerry said the U.S. and other nations must commit to much deeper carbon cuts to avert dire climate impacts, and the Interior Department issued an order requiring signoff from a top political appointee for any new oil and gas lease or drilling activity. The directive, which could slow approval for more than 400 drilling permit applications, prompted an immediate outcry from the oil and gas industry.

Those initial moves are the first in what promises to be a much longer — and more arduous — effort to unwind the Trump administration’s sweeping environmental and energy policies, which were marked by aggressive deregulation, prioritizing the fossil fuels industry and sidelining efforts to combat climate change or protect imperiled animals.

Trump worked to scale back or abolish more than 200 environmental protections in just a single term, according to a Washington Post analysis, completing more than 170 of them. Biden can overturn some of them with a stroke of a pen. Others will take years to undo, and some may never be reversed. Four Obama-era regulations were nullified under the Congressional Review Act, which prevents the introduction of a new rule that is “substantially the same” as what had been replaced, making Trump’s actions particularly hard to reverse.

The majority of Trump’s rollbacks affect air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, though 27 affect wildlife and 23 relate to infrastructure and planning. Though Biden is unlikely to target every one of his predecessor’s environmental actions, dozens of them are already in his sights.

Air pollution and greenhouse gases

Status of Trump’s rollbacks: 1 overturned 22 targeted 41 not yet targeted

The Trump administration enacted at least 64 policies weakening or overturning regulations aimed at curbing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions fueling global warming. Biden has vowed to reverse that legacy and promote a low-carbon future instead. By signing a document to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on his first day in office, the new president reversed one of his predecessor’s signature policies and signaled a different path.

Under litigationTrump rollback challenged in court.

Easy to overturn 6

Medium 6

Difficult 2

Can be reversed by a simple act, such as signing an executive order or new directive

Can be reversed only through more extensive action, such as rewriting a regulation or court ruling

Can only be reversed through a lengthy regulatory process, act of Congress or court ruling

Farmworker Protection Standard

Unsuccessful effort to block Agricultural Worker Protection Standard Read more »

Chlorpyrifos BanUnder litigation

Rejected a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to neurological damage in children Read more »

Regulation of TrichlorethyleneUnder litigation

Proposal would narrow the regulation of toxic solvents used in dry cleaning Read more »

Pyrethroid Pesticide Approval Process

Proposed relaxing restrictions in interim pesticide registration for pyrethroids Read more »

Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal

Proposed allowing commercial nuclear reactors to dispose of radioactive waste, aside from spent fuel, in local landfills Read more »

Park Service Plastic Water Bottle Ban

Reversed rule restricting platic water bottle sales in national parks Read more »

Standards for Storing Volatile Organic Liquids

Eased compliance requirements for storing volatile organic liquids, including petroleum products Read more »

Methylene Chloride Restrictions

Limited the use of the deadly chemical methylene chloride but exempted commercial uses Read more »

Risk Evaluation of Toxic SubstancesUnder litigation

Limited the scope of how the EPA evaluates the risks of toxic chemicals available on the market

Ban on N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)Under litigation

Withdrew a proposed ban of NMP, a toxic chemical used in paint strippers Read more »

Pesticide Applicators Rule

Adopted a pesticide spraying rule, narrower than the Obama-era rule, after a court loss Read more »

Chemical Disaster RuleUnder litigation

Rescinded a chemical disaster rule aimed at improving safety at sites with dangerous chemicals Read more »

Drilling and extraction

Status of Trump’s rollbacks: 1 overturned 10 targeted 51 not yet targeted

The 61 rollbacks Trump enacted on drilling, mining and logging ranged from weakened oil worker safety on offshore platforms to extracting fossil fuels from public lands. Biden announced a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and is reassessing a range of extractive activities including expanded timber operations in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and coal leasing out West in the Lower 48.

Under litigationTrump rollback challenged in court

Easy to overturn 38

Medium 17

Difficult 7

Can be reversed by a simple act, such as signing an executive order or new directive

Can be reversed only through more extensive action, such as rewriting a regulation or court ruling

Can only be reversed through a lengthy regulatory process, act of Congress or court ruling

Keystone XL PipelineUnder litigation

Biden rescinded the 2017 cross-permit Trump granted for the Keystone XL pipeline Read more »

Timber Harvesting on Federal Land

Proposal would make it easier to harvest timber on BLM land Read more »

Revoking Master Leasing Plans

Sped up oil and gas leasing on Bureau of Land Management lands Read more »

Natural Gas Exports Outside Trade Agreements

Extended 20-year authorization for natural gas exports to non-trade agreement countries Read more »

Drilling in Labyrinth CanyonUnder litigation

Allowing drilling in Utah’s Labyrinth Canyon, in an area surrounded by wilderness Read more »

Rangeland Management Rule

Would allow ranchers to make nonmonetary settlements when they overgraze or illegally graze on public lands Read more »

Desert Energy Renewable Conservation Plan Amendment

Proposed scaling back protections in Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Read more »

Financial Assurance for Offshore Drillers

Proposal to reduce the financial assurances oil and gas firms leasing offshore rights must supply Read more »

Changes to Oil and Gas Site Security

Proposed scaling back of security requirements for drilling on federal land Read more »

Oil Pipeline Spill Rules

Proposed scaling back rules governing oil pipeline spills Read more »

Public Lands Grazing Rules

Proposed overhauling grazing on Bureau of Land Management lands Read more »

USFS Oil and Gas Rules

Proposed speeding up the issuing of oil and gas permits on national forest land Read more »

USFS Locatable-Minerals Regulations

Proposed making it easier to locate minerals on national forest land Read more »

Offshore Five-Year Leasing Program

Proposed plan would expand drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans Read more »

Exploratory Arctic Drilling Rule

Proposed weakening standards governing oil and gas exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean Read more »

Royalty Valuation RuleUnder litigation

Repealed an Obama-era rule raising federal royalties for oil, gas and coal leases Read more »

Pebble Mine in Alaska

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowed a controversial mine permit application but then denied it Read more »

LNG Exports Hazardous Materials RulesUnder litigation

Amended hazardous materials rules to allow liquefied natural gas exports

Pandemic Royalty Rate Relief

Provided royalty relief to oil and gas firms while denying relief to renewable-energy companies Read more »

Big Cypress Seismic Testing

Allowed seismic testing in Big Cypress National Reserve without a permit Read more »

Federal Forest Management

Executive order to encourage logging on federal lands Read more »

Eastern Interior and Bering Glacier Public Land Order

Allowed state and tribal officials to lay claim to 1.3 million acres of Alaska land for development Read more »

Energy & Infrastructure Executive Order

Instructed agencies to speed up the development of energy projects such as pipelines Read more »

Cross-Border PermittingUnder litigation

Moved international border-crossing permit decisions to the White House, to speed pipelines Read more »

Farm Tap Regulations

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced it would not enforce rules against operators that do not comply with farm tap regulations Read more »

Offsetting Public Lands Environmental Damage

Barred requiring users of public lands to offset their environmental damage unless specifically directed Read more »

Goodnews Bay Public Land Order

Removes protections from 229,715 acres in Alaska to allow for minerals extraction Read more »

Oceanic, Coastal and Great Lakes development

Instructed agencies to use coastal, oceanic and Great Lake resources for energy production Read more »

Climate Impacts of PipelinesUnder litigation

Changed how regulators consider the greenhouse gas impacts of pipelines in environmental reviews Read more »

California Desert National Conservation Lands

Canceled move to ban mining on 1.3 million acres of California Desert National Conservation Lands Read more »

Sage Grouse Prioritization GuidanceUnder litigation

Overturned guidance to protect sage grouse habitat Read more »

National MonumentsUnder litigation

Shrank two national monuments in Utah Read more »

Arctic and Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf WithdrawalUnder litigation

Made most of the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean open to oil and gas leasing Read more »

Offshore Leasing Plan

Instructed Interior to revise five-year offshore leasing plan to expand energy production Read more »

Review of Designations Under the Antiquities ActUnder litigation

Shrank two national monuments in Utah and called for changes to other national monuments Read more »

Oil and Natural Gas Industry Emissions Data

Withdrew a 2016 information collection request for greenhouse gas emissions from existing oil and gas operations Read more »

Dakota Access PipelineUnder litigation

Approved construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline Read more »

Curtail Protest Process for Federal Timber Sales

Proposed limiting protests on federal timber sales Read more »

Bering Sea-Western Interior Management Area Plan

Would make more than 13 million acres in the Western Bering Sea open to development Read more »

Tongass National Forest Roadless RuleUnder litigation

Allowed road-building and logging in most of the Tongass National Forest Read more »

Transporting Liquified Gas by Rail

Allowed the bulk transport of liquified natural gas in rail tank cars Read more »

Financial Assurances for Hardrock MiningUnder litigation

Withdrew rule that would ensure mining firms paid the cost of cleaning up their operations Read more »

Fracking Rules on Federal and Indian LandsUnder litigation

Rescinded tighter fracking rules on federal and Indian lands Read more »

Copper Mine in Tonto National ForestUnder litigation

Proposal would allow mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP to mine copper in Oak Flat, Ariz. Read more »

Mineral Leasing in Western Alaska

Opens 9.7 million acres in western Alaska to mineral leasing Read more »

Allowing the Logging of Large Trees in Eastern Oregon and Washington National Forests

Reversed a 25-year policy of barring the logging of trees with a diameter of 21 inches or more in national forests in eastern Oregon and Washington. Read more »

National Petroleum Reserve-AlaskaUnder litigation

Expanded drilling on the largest swath of federal land, in Alaska, by 7 million acres Read more »

Sonoran Desert National Monument Grazing Plan

Expanded grazing by amending the Sonoran Desert National Monument Grazing Plan Read more »

Tribal Energy Resource Agreements

Reduced the requirements that tribes face when they enter into energy agreements involving tribal land Read more »

Sage Grouse Protection Plan AmendmentsUnder litigation

Eliminated most of the “Sagebrush Focal Areas” created to protect the imperiled sage grouse Read more »

Alton Coal Mine DevelopmentUnder litigation

Determined that coal mining can take place in an area near Bryce Canyon National Park Read more »

Twin Metals Mine Leases

Revived mining leases near Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Read more »

Copper Filter Cake

Removed copper filter cake, which contains heavy metals, from EPA’s hazardous waste list Read more »

Disclosure of Foreign Payments for Mining Projects

Nullified an Obama-era rule requiring firms to disclose payments to foreign governments for mining projects Read more »

Blowout Preventer and Well Control RuleUnder litigation

Weakened the requirement for oil firms to test fail-safe devices use to prevent oil spills Read more »

Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in Nevada

Approval for a lithium mine on BLM land that provides habitat for sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and a rare type of springsnail Read more »

Federal Oversight of Mine Safety Violations

Weakened federal oversight of mine safety and requirements to report safety violations Read more »

Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife RefugeUnder litigation

Leased drilling rights to 552,000 acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Read more »

Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Safety

Rolled back offshore drilling equipment safety rules adopted after Deepwater Horizon disaster Read more »

Small-Scale Natural Gas Exports

Quickened approvals for small-scale natural gas exports to non-trade agreement countries Read more »

Infrastructure and permitting

Status of Trump’s rollbacks: 0 overturned 2 targeted 21 not yet targeted

The Trump administration circumvented environmental rules to speed approval of major projects such as a four-lane highway that could crush desert tortoises in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and adopting changes that will curb public input in the development of highways, power plants and incinerators near communities.

Under litigationTrump rollback challenged in court

Easy to overturn 15

Medium 3

Difficult 5

Can be reversed by a simple act, such as signing an executive order or new directive

Can be reversed only through more extensive action, such as rewriting a regulation or court ruling

Can only be reversed through a lengthy regulatory process, act of Congress or court ruling

Coastal Barrier Resources Sand PolicyUnder litigation

Ruled it was legal to take sand from a protected area to replenish a beach elsewhere Read more »

Rewriting of NEPA Procedures

Proposal would narrow the Transportation Department’s environmental reviews of major projects Read more »

EPA Cost-Benefit Rule

Proposed changing the way the EPA weighs costs and benefits of environmental regulation Read more »

Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

Would withdraw stiffer federal flood risk standards Read more »

Use of Radioactive Phosphogypsum in RoadsUnder litigation

Allows radioactive phosphogypsum to be used in government road construction projects Read more »

Expedite Infrastructure Projects During Pandemic

Instructed agencies to expedite infrastructure projects during the pandemic Read more »

Regulatory Relief To Support Economic Recovery

Citing the pandemic, instructed agencies to waive regulations to bolster the economy Read more »

Off-Road Vehicles at Factory Butte

Opened up 5,400 acres surrounding Utah’s Factory Butte to off-road vehicles Read more »

Fish and Wildlife Service Mitigation Policy

Revoked directive to minimize impacts on wildlife and land when approving development projects Read more »

Accelerating Infrastructure projects

Instructed agencies to invoke their emergency powers to speed up infrastructure projects Read more »

Izembek National Wildlife RefugeUnder litigation

Rolled back Obama-era policy to protect Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Read more »

Overhaul of Interior’s Environmental Analysis Process

Directed Interior Department to streamline its environmental review documents Read more »

Climate Change and National Parks

Withdrew 2016 order to consider climate change in the management of national parks Read more »

Executive Order: Climate Impacts on Infrasture Projects

Revoked Obama-era standards requiring that federal projects consider sea-level rise and other climate impacts Read more »

“America First” Offshore Energy StrategyUnder litigation

Revoked an Obama executive order promoting climate resilience in the northern Bering Sea region Read more »

USFS NEPA Regulations

Sped up environmental review process for U.S. Forest Service projects Read more »

National Environmental Policy ActUnder litigation

Limited the climate and environmental impact analysis of major federal actions Read more »

Use of Sand, Gravel, and/or Shell ResourcesUnder litigation

Changed policy to allow coastal replenishment projects to use sand from protected ecosystems. Read more »

Streamlining Army Corps Permits

Streamlined Army Corps of Engineers permitting for pipelines and other projects Read more »

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area Highway

Allows construction of a four-lane highway in a protected area home to threatened desert tortoises Read more »

Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps ProjectUnder litigation

Overturned a Clean Water Act veto of a project that will drain and damage Mississippi wetlands Read more »

Natural Gas Exports

Exempted exports of natural gas from environmental reviews Read more »

BLM’s Planning 2.0 Rule

Nullified the Bureau of Land Management’s updated planning rule Read more

Transparency

Status of Trump’s rollbacks: 0 overturned 1 targeted 1 not yet targeted

Biden has said he will move swiftly to restore the federal government’s reliance on science to inform its policies. That includes taking aim at one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s final acts under Trump: limiting what scientific data can be used in the crafting of public health protections.

Under litigationTrump rollback challenged in court

Easy to overturn 1

Medium 1

Can be reversed by a simple act, such as signing an executive order or new directive

Can be reversed only through more extensive action, such as rewriting a regulation or court ruling

Interior “Open Science” Rule

Limits what scientific studies the Interior Department uses to craft rules Read more »

Settlement Payments to Third Parties in ENRD CasesUnder litigation

Curbed funding of environmental and community projects through legal settlements and lawsuits Read more »

Water pollution

Status of Trump’s rollbacks: 0 overturned 6 targeted 7 not yet targeted

President Trump eased restrictions on how companies store coal ash, weakened rules on dumping toxic waste from power plants into waterways and altered which wetlands and streams require federal oversight. Biden has vowed to crack down on legacy pollution, particularly in vulnerable communities, and to prioritize upgrading the nation’s crumbling drinking water infrastructure.

Under litigationTrump rollback challenged in court

Easy to overturn 3

Medium 5

Difficult 5

Can be reversed by a simple act, such as signing an executive order or new directive

Can be reversed only through more extensive action, such as rewriting a regulation or court ruling

Can only be reversed through a lengthy regulatory process, act of Congress or court ruling

Delayed Electronic Reporting of Dumping Water Pollution

Delayed electronic reporting requirements for water pollution discharges by five years Read more »

Coal Ash Impoundments Closure

Allowed some coal ash impoundments to keep operating Read more »

Regulation of PerchlorateUnder litigation

Reversed the finding that perchlorate, a toxic chemical, must be regulated nationwide Read more »

Cleanup Requirements for Industry

Weakens cleanup requirements for the power, oil and gas, and chemical manufacturing industries Read more »

Uranium Mines Groundwater Protection

Withdrew a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections in uranium mine operations Read more »

Power Plant Wastewater RuleUnder litigation

Weakened rules on dumping toxic waste from power plants into waterways Read more »

Coal Ash Part AUnder litigation

Extended the operating life of some coal ash ponds leaking toxic waste Read more »

Clean Water Act Section 401 RuleUnder litigation

Weakened a Clean Water Act provision that states and tribes used to object to federal project approvals Read more »

Navigable Waters Protection RuleUnder litigation

Scaled back federal protections for streams, wetlands and other waterways. Read more »

Stream Protection Rule

Scrapped Obama rule requiring mining firms to reduce harm to streams Read more »

Wildlife

Status of Trump’s rollbacks: 0 overturned 11 targeted 15 not yet targeted

One of the hallmarks of outgoing Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s legacy has been the narrowing of safeguards for endangered wildlife. The northern spotted owl, whose forest habitat is disappearing; the Pacific walrus, which faces shrinking sea ice; and the Bryde’s whale, threatened by oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, are likely to receive enhanced protections under Biden.

Under litigationTrump rollback challenged in court

Easy to overturn 10

Medium 11

Difficult 5

Can be reversed by a simple act, such as signing an executive order or new directive

Can be reversed only through more extensive action, such as rewriting a regulation or court ruling

Can only be reversed through a lengthy regulatory process, act of Congress or court ruling

Sage Grouse Habitat ProtectionsUnder litigation

Withdrew sage grouse protections spanning 10 million acres to allow drilling Read more »

Salmon and Smelt ProtectionsUnder litigation

Relaxed environmental protections for salmon and smelt in California’s Central Valley Read more »

Endangered Species Act Consultations

Scaled back consultations under the Endangered Species Act Read more »

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Seismic Testing

Proposed seismic testing permit in the refuge would allow disturbance of polar bears Read more »

Brown Bear Hunting in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Proposed allowing the trapping and baiting of brown bears in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Read more »

Endangered Species Pesticides Process

Rolled back inter-agency Endangered Species Act consultations on pesticides Read more »

Marine Monument fishing restrictionsUnder litigation

Lifted all commericial fishing limits within the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument Read more »

National Wildlife Refuges Pesticide BanUnder litigation

Withdrew a prohibition on using neonicotinoid pesticides and GMOs in national wildlife refuges Read more »

Controlling Canada Goose Populations

Made it legal to destroy Canada geese nests year-round Read more »

Elephant and Lion Trophy Imports

Lifted ban to allow for some elephant and lion trophy imports Read more »

Critical Habitat DesignationUnder litigation

Prioritized industrial and other uses when making critical habitat designation Read more »

Harming Marine Mammals in Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Surveys

Allowed oil and gas operators to harm marine mammals while during surveys in the Gulf of Mexico Read more »

Spotted Owl’s Critical HabitatUnder litigation

Shrank the spotted owl’s critical habitat by 3.4 million acres Read more »

Migratory Bird Treaty ActUnder litigation

Reversed legal interpretation that killing scores birds by accident is subject to prosecution Read more »

Veto of Driftnet Act

Vetoed bipartisan bill phasing out mile-long driftnets that entangle marine mammals and sharks Read more »

Black-footed Ferret Recovery

Scuttled a recovery site for the endangered black-footed ferret Read more »

Downlisting of American Burying BeetleUnder litigation

Reclassified American burying beetle from endangered to threatened, despite ongoing threats Read more »

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna CatchUnder litigation

Adopted rules with fewer safeguards for Atlantic bluefin tuna Read more »

Turtle-Excluders in Shrimp Trawl NetsUnder litigation

Weakened rule for shrimp trawl nets that entangle sea turtles Read more »

Lead Ammunition and Fishing Tackle

Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands Read more »

Protections for the Pacific WalrusUnder litigation

Denied Endangered Species Act protections to the Pacific walrus, which is threatened by climate change Read more

Critical Habitat ExclusionsUnder litigation

Requires consideration of financial impacts in designating critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act Read more »

Narrowing Critical Habitat DefinitionUnder litigation

Narrowed the definition of what constitutes critical habitat for imperiled species Read more »

Hunting and Trapping in Alaska PreservesUnder litigation

Reversed Obama-era ban on controversial hunting practices on some lands in Alaska Read more »

Changed Critical Habitat ApplicationUnder litigation

Limited when the government identifies habitat as critical for an imperiled species Read more »

Hunting Predators in Alaska National Wildlife RefugesUnder litigation

Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges Read more »

Juliet Eilperin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior national affairs correspondent for The Washington Post, covering environmental and energy policy. She has written two books, “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks” and “Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of Representatives.”

Brady Dennis is a Pulitzer Prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy.

John Muyskens is a graphics editor at the Washington Post specializing in data reporting.

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