Friday, June 23, 2017

Federal Judge Orders Environmental Review of DAPL

A federal Judge decreed that the Army Corps of Engineers had done an Insufficient job reviewing the Environmental impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The decision threatens to Shut Down the Pipeline. Pushing forward on the Pipeline was one of the early accomplishments touted by President Trump.

Under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), Agencies are required to conduct Analyses of Environmental Impacts for a wide range of Government decisions including ones like allowing DAPL. These Environmental impact Statements (EIS) are extremely detailed and can take years to produce. They are intended to ensure that the Public gets to weigh in on Government decisions that Impact the Environment and that such Impacts are minimized, though not Eliminated. But here’s the thing, Courts have been very deferential to Government Agencies when they put the work into creating an EIS. In large part, when an Agency does a thorough job of Analyzing Environmental Impacts, even if those Impacts are large, the Courts rarely invalidate Agency decisions.

When the Courts Overturn the work of Agencies, it’s often because the Agency hasn’t done enough, or has ignored NEPA’s Requirements altogether. Indeed in the Case of DAPL, the Judge Ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers did not "adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice."
In other words, the Trump Administration, in its haste to reverse an Obama era Decision, didn’t do its homework and the Court slapped them down for it.

This is similar to what has happened to the Trump Administration in its attempt to create a Travel Ban. And as the Trump Administration looks to reverse other Obama decisions, like the Clean Power Plan, National Monument Designations, and Regulations across the Government, this is a not a good sign for the president. Governing is hard. The Obama Administration was Staffed by hundreds of the most talented people in Public Affairs. And while they put in place a wide array of Changes in Public Policy, they had their share of difficulties, the Rollout of springs to mind.

In comparison, the Trump Administration remains woefully Understaffed. And as Legal problems swirl for the President and his closest Aides, they will continue to have difficulties finding Talented people to agree to work there. There have been newspaper reports that this is already the case. If the Obama Administration had challenges implementing Policy Changes, those difficulties will be much greater for the Understaffed Trump Administration. Regardless of whether a President wants to expand the Power of the Government or Contract it, he needs talented people around him and a Bureaucracy that is willing to work with him.

Trump has insulted the Bureaucracy continuously and failed to Appoint Political Officials to help him achieve his
goals. Trump’s supporters like to blame the “Deep State” for the lack of Accomplishments of the Trump Administration to date. It’s not so much the Deep State that is thwarting the President as the shallow Structure he has tried to Govern with.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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