In many states and cities that voted for Biden in the recent election, officials had in the past used the perception of a Trump administration not committed to environmental enforcement to request more resources for state and local enforcement. For example, in a May 2018 Alert “New York State Official Says States Will Respond to Trump Environmental Policies” I quoted Michael J. Myers, Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation in the New York State Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, who stated the “federal government under President Trump recedes in its role as implementor and enforcer of federal environmental and energy laws.” In that Alert, I noted Mr. Myers made no mention of any state attempts to increase enforcement during the Obama era, even though the decreasing trend in EPA enforcement began during that administration.
Demonizing EPA No Longer Available
I do not expect officials in these “blue” states and cities to say they need more resources because the Biden EPA is not committed to enforcement, although increased numbers of federally initiated enforcement actions remain unlikely. The current Congress and the Biden administration will not be able to allocate more resources to EPA for enforcement.
With demonizing EPA no longer available, these officials may face challenges to increasing or maintaining resources for state and local environmental enforcement. While they can cite EPA’s budget constraints, these arguments did not appear to have been used successfully when federal enforcement began significantly decreasing during the Obama administration.
The level of federal environmental enforcement is much more related to EPA’s budget than to the party of the President, a concept that does not seem to make for good sound bites.