7 Executive Orders President Obama Should Sign to Protect the Environment: Center for Progressive Reform

fountain pen photo

photo: Nils Geylan

At the time of this writing, Barack Obama has been president-elect for less than a week and no one is wasting any time in making suggestions for actions he should take once he's President Obama. The Center for Progressive Reform passed on their suggestions for 7 Executive Orders for the President's First 100 Days and so I pass them on to you to debate, discuss and otherwise armchair analyze.

They cover a range of perennial issues familiar to TreeHugger readers—Climate change, chemicals in products intended for children, pollution, preserving ecosystems on public lands. Here they are: 1. Reduce the Federal Carbon Footprint

The new President should issue an Executive Order requiring each federal agency to measure, report, and reduce its carbon footprint. Not only would the Executive Order have a meaningful impact on the federal government's carbon emissions, it could also lead to the creation of uniform, practical standards for measuring such footprints, standards that could be applied government-wide and beyond. Each of the provisions of this proposed Order is consistent with the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act.

2. Consider Climate Change in All Decisions
The next President should issue a new Executive Order clarifying that all federal agencies are obligated to consider the global climate change-related implications of their actions. This proposed Order is consistent with the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act.

3. Protect Children from Chemicals
The next President should amend Executive Order 13045 (issued initially by President
Clinton and then amended by President Bush) to mandate that agencies establish an affirmative agenda for protecting children from lead, mercury, perchlorate, phthalates, fine particulate matter, ozone, and pesticides; require the reform of risk assessment policy so that children are accounted for as a vulnerable group; and end the use of discounting the value of children's lives in cost-benefit analysis. As is the case with the provisions of the existing Order on Protecting Children, each of these recommendations is consistent with the goals of the various environmental, safety, and public health statutes.

4. Environmental Justice
The next President should amend or replace the original Executive Order [12898] on Environmental Justice. The new Order should require a meaningful analysis of the environmental justice impacts and implications of all major new rules; impose on agencies a substantive obligation to take affirmative steps to ameliorate environmental injustice; launch an affirmative Environmental Justice agenda; hold agencies accountable for carrying out their environmental justice obligations; and clarify key terms from the current Order, including "environmental justice communities" and "subsistence," to avoid the kind of narrow interpretation of the terms applied by the Bush Administration. As is the case with the existing Executive Order on Environmental Justice, these recommendations are consistent with the goals of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

5. Transparent Regulatory Review
The new President should issue an Executive Order restoring open government in three areas where unwarranted secrecy has developed. The Order should restore the presumption of disclosure concerning exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) so that political appointees and career government employees cannot operate free of scrutiny; forbid agencies from taking advantage of loopholes that limit the transparency provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) so that the public can be assured that special interests do not have undue influence on agency decision making; and improve the transparency of regulatory review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
(OIRA) so that efforts by political appointees in the White House to override the judgment of scientists and other experts in regulatory agencies can at least be transparent to the public. All of the proposed Order's provisions are consistent with the goals of FOIA and FACA.

6. Protect Stronger State Laws from Weaker Federal Ones
CPR points out that the Bush Administration often preempted stronger state laws on environmental regulation with weaker federal ones,
The next President should [...] should amend the existing Executive Order on Federalism to strengthen provisions setting forth a presumption against preemption; require agencies to provide a written justification for preemption; and require that, when a federal statute allows states to adopt more stringent standards or seek a waiver of statutory preemption (as in EPA's denial of California's Clean Air Act waiver), agencies must provide a written justification to the White House before denying the state's regulatory authority or waiver request. As is the case with the existing Executive Order on Federalism, these recommendations are consistent with the goals of the various statutes under which the environmental, safety, and public health agencies operate, including the National Environmental Policy Act.

7. Promoting Ecological Integrity
The next President should issue a new Executive Order declaring a national policy of
promoting ecological integrity as a baseline requirement for sustainable public land use. The President should also revoke two Bush Administration Executive Orders issued in 2005 (Executive Orders 13211 and 13212) that made it easier to develop energy resources on public lands, even at the risk of causing long-term degradation of natural resource values. In addition, the President should amend a third Bush Order (Executive Order 13443) by providing equal opportunities for public participation in federal land use decision making to a wide variety of constituencies, in addition to those promoting hunting. All of these measures are consistent with the goals of the various public lands statutes.

These are just the summaries of what CPR believes President Obama should do (obviously the document was worded with either Obama or McCain in mind). The full version of Protecting Public Health and the Environment by Stroke of a Presidential Pen goes into much more detail as to why these Executive Orders should be enacted.

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