Tim Duane, professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, gave a lecture Tuesday exploring the scope and limits of presidential power toward environmental deregulation at the UNC School of Law, just days after the Environmental Protection Agency cut roughly 400 employees under President Donald Trump’s administration.
While the Trump administration has had the most regulatory rollbacks since President Ronald Reagan, Duane said Trump's effort to achieve environmental deregulations is nothing new. He said this concept dates back to the early 1980s when Reagan attempted deregulations of the same scale.
“The reasons (President Trump) wants to achieve (deregulations) I think refer primarily to the perception that those environmental regulations have a burden upon economic activity,” Duane said. “Others believe that environmental regulation brings benefits related to health and environmental values, and also lead to developing new technologies that also have an environmental benefit.”
Duane said despite Trump’s efforts to cut back on environmental regulation, most of his actions have not been successful without congressional approval. In his lecture, Duane used examples from the checks and balances system to show that presidential powers can be limited.
“The degree of power the president has depends on how Congress exercises its power. If Congress doesn’t exercise its power, then the president can claim more,” Duane said. “If Congress does, then the president may be constrained.”
Law student Coker Holmes said the lecture topic was relevant due to today’s politics.
“It was primarily a constitutional law discussion, which I took last semester," Holmes said. "It was interesting to hear it applied to presidential action."
Duane said there are opportunities to make an environmental difference on campus.
“You can think about your energy use, water use, transportation or recycling, and model that and work with other students,” Duane said. “The second is more institutional, where (students) can try to influence how the campus manages these certain types of issues, whether it’s working with the administration or offering educational programs.”
For students still wary of the president’s efforts to cut back on environmental protection, Duane offered brief words of encouragement during the presentation.
“A tweet is not a law,” Duane said.
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