Law School (in a nutshell)

Law schools routinely enthrall (or bore) students with a course called Administrative Law.  In the part where they talk about how regulations get made, the lesson is that nothing happens quickly.  Agencies announce that they have an idea, that maybe they want to change a regulation.  People who have an opinion chime in. 

       Then there is a proposed regulation.  The public comments.  Sometimes there are public hearings.  Many times the agency does an Environmental Impact Statement, considering the environmental effects of the new regulation.  The Environmental Impact Statement first comes out as a draft.  The public comments; the Environmental Impact Statement is published in final form.

       Then the final regulation comes out.  If there is controversy, and someone feels strongly enough about it, someone goes to court.  There they often allege, among other things, that all the steps in the process of proposing and enacting the regulation were not followed.

       The story on the previous pages about the regulations implementing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as well as the other story on this page illustrate this.  It is apparent that the Trump administration came into office with the idea that the interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act should be changed.  President Trump left office with the efforts just being completed.  President Trump campaigned on changing the definition of the waters of the United States.  That took most of his administration.

       It’s useful to remember this as President Biden approaches environmental regulation.  Major newspapers regularly publish lists of environmental regulations that the Trump administration rolled back.  Most lists put the number at close to one hundred.  One of his Executive Orders, Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, lists environmental policies he wishes to review.  There are a lot, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the waters of the United States rule.  To see the whole list, go to

       It is easy to hope (or dread, depending upon perspective) that soon after he takes office President Biden will sign an executive order or two, walk to the Rose Garden for an announcement, and Poof!, the regulation changes are gone.

       Those who hope for this are sure to be disappointed.  Those who dread it will be relieved.  Administrative law does not work that way.  It is a plodding process, one that takes years.  It took years to make the changes; it will take years to undo them.