Week in Review

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President Obama releases his final budget proposal, the U.S. Supreme Court issues an order staying the Clean Power Plan, and more…

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  • President Barack Obama released his 2017 fiscal year budget, which is aimed at both supporting certain agency initiatives, as well as reining in regulatory costs, through proposals such as: providing several agencies with funding to develop a transportation system, investing in research and development in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and “consolidat[ing] and reorganiz[ing] Government agencies to make them leaner and more efficient”—proposals that carry a reported $4.1 trillion price tag, and which U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price criticized for allegedly “increas[ing] spending by trillions of dollars above what we already cannot afford.”
  • In a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a coalition of states’ petition for a stay of the Clean Power Plan—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule that imposes emission-reduction requirements for power plants, but which the states argue exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act—a decision that many have called “unprecedented” and a signal of the Court’s misgivings concerning the merits of the rule, but which the White House denounced, reaffirming its belief that ultimately it “will prevail on the merits.”
  • In an effort to crack down on fraud and abuse committed by higher education institutions that participate in federal financial aid programs, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced that it is establishing a Student Aid Enforcement Unit, which will be tasked with: identifying potential violators of tax and consumer laws and instituting administrative proceedings against them; offering legal analysis and advice concerning borrower defense claims; and ensuring that participating colleges and universities comply with the relevant laws, among other measures.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended that airlines evaluate and address the risks of carrying lithium batteries as cargo, such as the potential for battery-related fires or explosions, and advised FAA inspectors to monitor airlines’ risk assessments.
  • On the heels of several U.S. House Republicans’ introduction of a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that includes a proposal to transfer control of air traffic operations from the agency to a separate not-for-profit corporation—a move that would effectively overhaul the agency—the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee approved the legislation after defeating multiple amendments aimed at halting the plan, clearing the way for the controversial bill to proceed to the U.S. House floor ahead of the fast-approaching expiration of the FAA’s funding.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a request for comments on a possible rule defining “curbside bus operators” as carrier operations with high passenger loads, and which pick up and drop off passengers in parking lots or at curbsides, rather than at traditional bus terminals—a definition that would subject bus companies such as Megabus and BoltBus to a law that requires all curbside bus operators to complete an annual safety fitness assessment.


  • On Columbia Law School’s Climate Law Blog, Professor Michael B. Gerrard analyzed the Supreme Court’s recent decision to issue a stay against the emission regulations under the Clean Power Plan, calling the decision “one of the most environmentally harmful judicial actions of all time.” Professor Gerrard argued that the decision would not have a significant impact on the United States’ fulfillment of the Paris Climate Conference targets because the Clean Power Plan was insufficient by itself to reduce emissions to those targets. Rather, according to Professor Gerrard, the United States must implement further environmental initiatives.
  • The Washington Post published an editorial in which it argued that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should leave air traffic control to private entities, and focus instead on implementing safety regulations. In support of its argument, the Washington Post explained that U.S. policymakers have fallen behind their counterparts in other Western democracies in terms of safety and innovation, and that the FAA therefore needs to prioritize these matters.
  • A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could do more to improve coordination between headquarters and regional offices. The report concluded that FEMA, while showing progress, needs to enhance its emergency preparedness grant management coordination in order to prevent “confusion and duplication.”