Trump's latest executive order could impose a 'Sophie's choice' on the EPA

President Donald Trump’s latest executive order will force government agencies to kill two regulations for every one they create — literally.

The order, as listed on, reads: “Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency (agency) publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.”

Analysts are still scrambling to figure out exactly what the rule means and how far it will go. It’s unclear, for example, whether it applies to 30 Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations still awaiting approval — many of which are local implementation plans for broader environmental rules put in place by Congress.

Here’s what is clear: Trump’s latest directive is likely to have a sweeping impact across the federal government, with especially strong ramifications for the EPA.

Kenneth Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, put out a statement warning that the order could put the agency in an impossible position.

“This executive order is absurd,” Kimmell wrote, “imposing a Sophie’s choice on federal agencies. If, for example, the EPA wants to issue a new rule to protect kids from mercury exposure, will it need to get rid of two other science-based rules, such as limiting lead in drinking water and cutting pollution from school buses?”

In his statement, Kimmell also raised the possibility that Trump may not actually have the authority as President to issue an order like this. As Washington, DC-based subscription news service Inside EPA notes, many EPA rules, such as air quality standards, must be in place as required by Congress. Many of the regulations the EPA creates are in fact instructions to local groups on how to abide by federal laws. It’s not clear that the EPA, or the President, has the authority to roll those back.

Business Insider reached out to the EPA but did not receive a response.

Trump’s order also requires that new regulations in 2017 have a net compliance cost of $0. That is, for any new rule the EPA (or any other agency) creates, it will have to cut costs by rolling back other rules. Again, it remains unclear whether the EPA can do so while also complying with the law.

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