Every new President storms into office with bold proclamations about what they will accomplish on “Day One” and proposes an aggressive agenda for their first 100 days in office. In reality, however, the President of the United States is limited in what permanent changes they can accomplish on their own without Congress.
The other handcuff built into place is the Administrative Procedure Act and a formal process for regulatory rulemaking that can take months and sometimes years to put in place a new environmental policy. This is why the incoming administration usually turns to Executive Orders, Memoranda, Actions and Proclamations to immediately make good on their promises for those first 100 days in office.
From Jan. 20, 2021, President Biden’s first day in office, through Jan. 31, he issued 25 Executive Orders. By comparison, during that same time frame, former President Trump issued seven and President Obama issued nine. When combined with the other Presidential directives, President Biden released roughly 50 Executive Actions in just his first 11 days in office.
According to the American Presidency Project, Trump averaged 55 Executive Orders per year, Obama averaged 35 and George W. Bush issued roughly 36 Orders per year. To put this in perspective, President Biden has nearly matched the number of Orders issued in an entire year by the most recent Oval Office holders less than two weeks into his first year of his first term in office.
Sources close to the White House report that President-elect Biden instructed his senior staff after the election to learn more about President Franklin Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office during the Great Depression. FDR averaged 307 Executive Orders annually over his 12 years in office, totaling 3,721 actions he took with the “stroke of a pen.”
Executive Orders are not permanent public policy, but the President can act unilaterally without consulting Congress, passing a law or moving through the lengthy rulemaking process. They often direct a federal government agency to issue permanent regulations to implement the President’s Executive Order or Executive Actions.
President Biden took steps the last week in January to begin rolling back much of former President Trump’s environmental policies, many of which affect manufacturers. The administration is reviewing more than 100 rules and regulations on air, water and climate change, among other areas heavily regulated by the federal government. This number is significant because former President Trump himself completed 98 rollbacks of environmental rules his predecessors put in place during his four years in office.
One Executive Order we are paying close attention to involves the Social Cost of Carbon, which is an estimate the Biden administration will use to calculate, in dollars, the economic damage caused by emitting 1 ton of greenhouse gases. This means when the federal government looks at emissions from a manufacturing facility, power plant or exhaust pipe, they place a “cost” to the environment in real dollars and regulate accordingly, often restricting economic activity.
Rumors are circulating among those of us working on environmental regulations that the Biden EPA may set the Social Cost of Carbon as high as $125 per ton, four times the Obama-era value. Such a high value would allow the EPA to justify a litany of rules limiting emissions and economic activity, including the expansion of some manufacturing and energy facilities.
These changes are real, and they will affect manufacturing in America. Eventually, as we march through the remainder of the first 100 days of President Biden’s term, he will pivot from temporary Executive Orders to these more permanent regulations. There is no question his EPA will regulate the environment and economic activity in a way unlike any of his predecessors since another Roosevelt was in the White House, Theodore.
Business groups are already lining up to press their case for balanced and effective regulations, but manufacturers should expect the next four years to look very different than the previous four.