Trump Rolls Back Obama-era Environmental Rules


Penn State research experts were quoted in stories written about an executive order President Donald Trump signed Tuesday, March 28, 2017, on energy and climate. Here are a few news clips:


Michael Mann

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center and a distinguished professor of metrology, was quoted in stories for Forbes Magazine, Voice of America and LiveScience about the order. Here’s an excerpt from the Forbes Magazine piece:

“On Monday, new research came out of Penn State that supports the notion that extreme weather events like floods, drought, heat waves and wildfires are happening more often and that there is a link between the increase and rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

” ‘We are now able to connect the dots when it comes to human-caused global warming and an array of extreme recent weather events,’ said Michael Mann, a respected atmospheric scientist and and director of the university’s Earth System Science Center.

“Those heavy rains that stressed dams in California and threatened downstream communities, as well as the drought that the rains erased could be just the beginning of a prolonged extreme weather roller coaster ride if Mann’s research holds true and the new Trump trajectory produces its desired results.

“Essentially, the executive order is the administration’s first step in halting all federal action to address climate change, including President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, while at the same time easing restrictions on the extraction of fossil fuels — namely coal, gas and oil.”


David Titley

David W. Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, professor of practice in the department of meteorology, and professor in the School of International Affairs, was quoted in an article that appeared on The Conversation and the San Francisco Gate. Here’s an excerpt:

“Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor and retired Rear Admiral David Titley agrees with Mattis. ‘Here is how military planners see this issue: We know that the climate is changing, we know why it’s changing and we understand that change will have large impacts on our national security. Yet as a nation we still only begrudgingly take precautions,’ Titley writes.”

Trump’s immigration executive orders: The demise of due process and discretion

A screenshot of the article published on The Conversation.

By Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia | Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Founding Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic


The U.S. immigration code, passed by Congress in 1952, rivals the tax code in its level of complexity. The Conversation

In January, President Donald Trump signed three executive orders on immigration that have made matters more complicated for immigrants and the lawyers and advocates who fight on their behalf.

As an immigration lawyer and teacher, I have spent countless hours helping those in need and educating my community, which includes residents, educators, professors, international students and scholars, along with local government about the contents of the orders, and the guidelines released by the Department of Homeland Security in February and how they will be implemented.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

Specifically, the two orders on deportations and enforcement, both signed on Jan. 25, reveal that the government is making three major changes.

First, the orders are making virtually every undocumented person a priority for deportation.

Second, they seek to maximize existing programs that allow deportation of individuals without basic due process. This includes the right to be heard by a judge, present evidence or challenge a charge of deportation.

And third, pursuant to its Feb. 20 memorandum, DHS has rescinded most documents that offered guidance on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutorial discretion in immigration law refers to the choice made by a government official or agency to enforce or not enforce the immigration law against a person. It has been the central focus of my research, and is a critical component in our immigration system. Officials must choose whom to prioritize for removal because they have limited resources. The government has also recognized other compelling reasons why a person might deserve to not be deported. For example, a person without papers who has lived in the United States for several years and has family ties, steady employment or community leadership may temporarily be protected from removal.

Do Trump’s executive orders signal an end to this practice?

Everyone is a priority

DHS has rescinded the 2014 Johnson Priorities Memo, which provided a framework for determining who is a priority for immigration enforcement and articulated the factors that should be considered when making decisions about whether to deport someone.

For example, the memo instructed DHS to consider amount of time spent living in the United States and “compelling humanitarian factors such as poor health, age, pregnancy, a young child, or a seriously ill relative.”

Now, the government is taking a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement, without explicit consideration for a person’s circumstances. The orders list specific parts of the 1952 immigration statute that target those eligible for deportation for reasons related to crimes or misrepresentation. But enforcement officials will also now target deportable immigrants who:

  • have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;
  • have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
  • in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

DHS guidance does not stop with this priority list. It goes on to suggest that any person without documents might be a priority. It repeatedly states: “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

Arguably, an undocumented parent living in the United States for several years and taking care of children who have formal or permanent immigration status, or United States citizenship, could be targeted as a person “in violation of the immigration laws,” whereas before this same person would have more clearly been eligible for prosecutorial discretion and not been labeled as a priority. Similarly, a student who overstays her visa and then jaywalks may be treated as an enforcement priority because jaywalking constitutes a chargeable offense.

The cumulative effect is fear that everyone is a priority.

Despite major changes to enforcement, the guidance from DHS suggests that individual prosecutorial discretion may be exercised on a case-by-case basis, and preserves three policies relating to enforcement.

One pertains to “sensitive locations” and instructs DHS to avoid enforcement in places like schools, places of worship and hospitals.

The second is a guideline on granting parole to certain arriving asylum seekers after a “credible fear” interview has been conducted. When an asylum seeker is “paroled,” she is released from detention and able to pursue her asylum claim outside of custody.

The final memo that is still intact is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA enables qualifying noncitizens who entered the United States at a young age, often referred to as “Dreamers,” to apply for protection from deportation and work authorization.

While I see the preservation of these guidelines as positive, the overriding message of the executive orders and implementation memos is one of speedy enforcement without discretion or due process.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia is the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and founding director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Pennsylvania State University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How does Obama’s use of unilateral powers compare to other presidents?

President Barack Obama meets with Amy Pope, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, who briefs him and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on the potential cases of non-travel related Zika announced by the Florida Department of Health earlier today, in the Oval Office, July 27, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with Amy Pope, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, who briefs him and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on the potential cases of non-travel related Zika announced by the Florida Department of Health earlier today, in the Oval Office, July 27, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mark Major, Pennsylvania State University

During a 2008 town hall event, then Senator Barack Obama told the audience that as a legal scholar and teacher, he took the Constitution “very seriously.” He went on to criticize the Bush administration, asserting:

“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all.”

When he was a presidential candidate, it was easy for Obama to criticize the unpopular Bush administration. Once he was in the Oval Office, though, and facing what two congressional scholars call the “uncompromising opposition” of the Republican Party, Obama’s stance on executive power transformed. He realized that, as John F. Kennedy said, “Many things can be done by a stroke of the presidential pen.”

Kennedy was referring to the unilateral powers of the presidency.

Ways to go it alone

Presidents have more than one way to act without the support of Congress and the courts.

These presidential powers include executive orders, proclamations, national security directives and memoranda. The powers matter because many important policies like integrating the military and institutions like the Peace Corps are products of presidents going it alone.

Mark Major

Mark Major

These actions are often controversial because these powers are not part of the Constitution. Although presidents since George Washington have been using unilateral authority, scholars point out that the use of these powers have become more significant under recent presidents. Indeed, University of Chicago scholar William G. Howell argues that the capacity to go it alone is a key characteristic of the modern presidency.

So President Obama is following a rich tradition. As Concordia University professor Graham Dodds writes in his valuable book, “Take Up Your Pen,” Teddy Roosevelt provided the template for the modern president – a model that all of his successors have emulated, regardless of party.

Although he didn’t invent executive power, Roosevelt redefined what could be construed as legitimate. He “established and largely institutionalized the practice of regularly using unilateral presidential directives for significant purposes,” Dodd tells us. Roosevelt issued more than 1,000 executive directives in areas from race relations to simplifying English spelling. Echoing contemporary Republican complaints about President Obama, critics of Roosevelt decried his administration as a “dictatorship” and declared him “Caesar.”

A busy 100 days

For his part, President Obama hit the ground running once in office. According to one report, he issued more unilateral directives “in his first 100 days than any president since Franklin Roosevelt.”

Early in his tenure, Obama issued directives banning torture, made efforts to make his administration more transparent and ordered Guantanamo Bay closed. He also issued a series of pro-labor directives that reversed Bush-era policies.

Throughout his two terms, Obama has implemented major administrative regulations, nearly 50 percent more than President George W. Bush. These include workplace protections, raising the minimum wage for federal employees, extending rights to marginalized groups including an order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers and raising fuel efficiency standards. The New York Times recently noted that under Obama’s progressive actions, “the government has literally placed a higher value on human life.”

Despite all of this activity, Obama has also shown some restraint in this polarized political era. Consider executive orders – one of the most frequently used unilateral powers with more than 15,000 issued since the Washington administration. Obama has signed just 33 annually on average, fewer than any president since Grover Cleveland during his first term.

One reason for Obama’s cautiousness may be that presidents are less likely to issue directives during periods of divided government. During Obama’s first term, when he enjoyed unified government during his first two years in office, he averaged 37 executive orders per year. This average dropped to 29 in his second term when Republicans were running Congress.

A team of one

So how effective are these unilateral moves?

Research shows usually quite effective. Congress and the courts have trouble pushing back against presidential directives. However, Obama has been frustrated on a few fronts.

For one, Congress has thwarted Obama’s efforts at tackling gun violence. The president’s lack of progress in this arena demonstrates the limits of a unilateral approach. As Bowdoin professor Andrew Rudalevige tells us, “The most substantive shifts Obama is proposing require legislative approval” – and he didn’t get it. Congress also rejected Obama’s early directive to shut down Guantanamo.

The Supreme Court, for its part, has effectively nullified Obama’s actions on immigration reform and temporarily halted his historic reductions of power plant emissions mandated through the Environmental Protection Agency.

No change ahead

Expect more presidential directives from the next administration. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have promised, keeping with tradition, to use the unilateral tools while in the White House.

Additionally, if Trump wins, Obama will likely use his powers to implement last-minute agenda items like trade, immigration and health care. A flurry of last-minute orders is typical when the opposing party is taking over the White House.

While his legislative accomplishments like the Affordable Care Act are noteworthy, President Obama’s legacy will be defined in no small part by what he did alone. Obama joins a long line of presidents who were suspicious of these powers before taking office, but who realized the strong appeal of them as a sitting president.

Paul Begala, an adviser to the Clinton administration, put it best, “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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