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Environmentalists aim to use EPA guidance removal rule as tool despite opposition

Environmentalists aim to use EPA guidance removal rule as tool despite opposition
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Despite environmental groups’ opposition to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that allows the public to ask the agency to eliminate policy guidances, at least one organization has already started to use the rule to its advantage. 

The rule, finalized in Septemberallows the public to petition to eliminate or change guidance documents issued by the agency. 

Under the newly-effective rule, the Center for Biological Diversity is already asking the agency to get rid of guidances that they argue don’t give endangered species concerns enough weight in the pesticide approval process.

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Environmentalists have argued that the guidance rule will allow the agency more opportunity to gut the work of prior administrations and give industry more chances to challenge decisions they don’t like. 

Brett Hartl, the center’s government affairs director, said he doesn’t support the policy, but said that while it’s in play, his group plans to use it to target additional guidances that they feel help industry at the environment’s expense. 

“It’s a stupid, ideological rule, it doesn’t make sense, it’s bad policy,” Hartl said. “But we’re not going to just sit on our hands and not use it.”

He said that while he thinks a Biden administration may eventually reverse the rule, until that point, it’ll create a mixed bag of results, some of which benefit industry and some of which benefit the environment. 

“I think for the pesticide area and the [Toxic Controlled Substances Act] area it’s probably worse for industry, it’s probably 50/50 for water and probably worse for the NGOs on the air side ... but that’s a guess,” he said. 

An EPA spokesperson said in an email that the agency was reviewing the center’s petition. 

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EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA sued by environmental groups over Trump-era smog rule Environmental groups sue over federal permit for Virgin Islands refinery OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE has touted the rule as a transparency measure and a way to allow people to participate in government processes. 

“This rule sheds light on guidance document development and provides for public participation in the process for the first time,” Wheeler said in September. 

He added that it is “probably the biggest change in a generation” for how the agency conducts its administrative procedures.