Venable partner Fred Wagner was interviewed in an April 28, 2017, Law360 article on President Donald Trump's continued rollback of energy and environmental regulations. Despite a series of executive orders aimed at rolling back various regulations, the administration may run into problems implementing them due to a number of vacant positions at the agencies responsible for implementing the orders.
"Not only do you have to deal with the justification [for revising the rule], you also have to say why the original justification is no longer valid," said Wagner. "The career staff are not going to do that on their own. They need input from the political appointees. The secretary's office is not equipped to deal with all of this." He added that the longer agency positions go unfilled; it becomes less likely the orders will be fully implemented. "They're going to have to pick and choose the ones that give them the biggest bang for their buck, whether it’s substantively or politically."
Aside from agency vacancies, Wagner said court challenges could also pose a problem. "Judges are used to Administrative Procedure Act rules. That's how they review these things, and it provides the agencies with some cover if they follow those [APA] rules," he said. "If those rules aren't followed or the agency deviates too much from those procedures that judges are comfortable with, it does create vulnerability."
For companies expecting regulatory relief, Wagner cautioned them to "be careful what you wish for" and that regulatory certainty is more important than regulatory relief. "If some of these rules are potentially on the chopping block, but may not get there, or the timing is up in the air, what does that all do?" he asked. "The clock moves forward, and before you know it, there are midterm elections and another presidential election cycle. What if things flip again?"