Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential primary challenger to President Biden who since joined the Biden administration, has moved to end key policy-related initiatives from the era of his predecessor, Trump administration Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. In the name of conservative anti-regulation ideology, these policy-related initiatives limited the federal government’s regulatory reach, which could obviously threaten federal efforts to address certain real-world challenges. According to The Washington Post, Transportation Department officials pointed to efforts to address climate change, racial injustice, COVID-19, and more that required strengthening oversight.
As the Post summarized, Buttigieg “formally deleted many internal departmental rules and policies put in place under his predecessor, Elaine Chao, that were part of the Trump administration’s push to pare back regulations, and in some cases, limit their enforcement.” As the Post also noted, one of ex-President Donald Trump’s many executive orders demanded the cancellation of two federal regulations whenever a new one was imposed, and there’s clearly no sort of systematic policy underpinning for this idea. It’s ideology, and the ideology is destructive to the operations of government.
As Biden put it in one of his own executive orders, “It is the policy of my Administration to use available tools to confront the urgent challenges facing the Nation.” In other words — no blind de-regulation for the sake of it. Now, Buttigieg has ended “2019 regulations that governed how and when department officials can take enforcement-related actions or issue guidance documents covering cars, trucks, airplanes and pipelines,” in the Washington Post description. Pollution is obviously a seriously pressing issue, but leaving the restraining regulations in place would have hampered federal abilities to address the problem.
A Buttigieg spokesperson noted that the Trump administration’s plan “would hamstring the Department’s ability to respond quickly and effectively” to critical issues. Specifically, an executive order from Biden titled “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis” requires a review of Trump era moves, including their end to Obama era emissions standards tackling pollution.
Back in February, the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., formally paused litigation relating to a Trump era rule that kept California (and other states) from setting their own vehicle emissions standards separate from the Trump administration’s looser federal framework. As the Biden administration put it, the original rule “is under close scrutiny by the Federal Agencies, and the positions taken by the Agencies in this litigation to date may not reflect their ultimate conclusions.” In other words, the Biden administration was preparing to formally abandon the Trump administration’s position in litigation in favor of the rule restraining state-level emissions standards.