The Washington Post
The effects of anti-regulation
Glenn Kessler’s March 5 Fact Checker column, “So far, Ohio train wreck can’t be blamed on Trump’s rollback of regulations,” was a little too quick in attempting to exonerate former president Donald Trump for his administration’s role in the East Palestine, Ohio, train disaster.
When it comes to regulations, Mr. Trump’s most consequential legacy was not the rollbacks, which were sporadic and generally unsuccessful, but his success in gumming up the entire regulatory apparatus for four years. He was able to accomplish this through his infamous “two-out, one-in” executive order, which required agencies to remove at least two regulations before they could issue any new ones. The upshot was that agencies — already led by political appointees hostile to public safeguards — were strongly discouraged from completing new rules. The data bears this out, as regulatory output dropped compared with prior administrations.
Put differently, the real question is what regulations didn’t the Federal Railroad Administration issue while it was forced to sit on its hands by Mr. Trump’s disastrous executive order? Could any of those forgone actions have prevented the East Palestine derailment? Public Citizen led an important lawsuit against the executive order for this very reason, but it was incorrectly dismissed in court. The East Palestine disaster is likely just the first of many tragic illustrations of why the Public Citizen lawsuit was correct all along.
James Goodwin, Washington The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform.