The Regulatory Week in Review: December 16, 2016

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President-elect Trump announces his picks for two more Cabinet positions, the Cause of Action Institute sues the CFPB, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • President-elect Trump announced his choices for two Cabinet positions this week. He announced his intention to nominate former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy—an agency he proposed dismantling during his 2011 presidential campaign—praising his creation of a business climate in Texas “that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices.”  While Perry lacks the science experience of the two most recent Energy Secretaries—both physicists—two former Energy Secretaries, one Republican and one Democrat, reportedly said they could “envision Mr. Perry adapting” to running the agency.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his plans to step down on January 20, 2017, the day of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. Wheeler’s departure from the FCC, coupled with Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel not being confirmed for another term as Commissioner, will give Republicans a 2-1 majority on the FCC until the incoming administration fills the two open seats. Wheeler referred to his tenure at the FCC as “the greatest honor of [his] professional life,” and thanked President Obama for the opportunity.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled three new rules—collectively called the “Farmer Fair Practices Rules”—aimed at protecting small, family chicken farms from the practices of larger processing companies. The rules aim to “level the playing field” for small farmers amid concerns that large “processors can often wield market power over the growers.” The National Farmers Union reportedly welcomed the rules, but Tyson Foods reportedly characterized them as the “kind of overregulation [that] is bad for farmers, food companies and consumers.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report on the impact of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, on drinking water. The report is organized around the stages of the fracking water cycle, and concludes that, under some circumstances, fracking can affect drinking water. The report also highlights circumstances in which the effects of fracking on drinking water can be more frequent or severe, including when fracking fluids are injected “into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity,” or “directly into groundwater resources.”
  • A new report from the The Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation assesses the merits of “education savings accounts” —which give parents the option to buy educational services for their children from a variety of providers—for increasing school choice. Asserting that less-regulated education systems perform better than “more centralized and regulated ones,” the report cautions against “misguided regulations such as open admissions requirements, price controls, state testing mandates, and excessive reporting requirements” and concludes that policymakers should include education savings accounts in school-choice reform measures.
  • In a Yale Environment 360 forum, seven experts—including advocates, journalists, and lawyers—weighed in on “just how far Trump might roll back President Obama’s environmental initiatives.” Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, posits that “the momentum we’ve seen will continue, because it’s driven in part by market forces,” while Professor Michael Gerrard of Columbia Law School predicts that the U.S. is now unlikely to meet its pledged contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement, something that could cause other countries to “slack off.”