In its first year in office, the Trump administration introduced a solitary new environmental rule aimed at protecting the public from pollution. It was aimed not at sooty power plants or emissions-intensive trucks, but dentists.
Every year, dentists fill Americans’ tooth cavities with an amalgam that includes mercury. About 5 tons of mercury, a dangerous toxin that can taint the brain and the nervous system, are washed away from dental offices down drains each year.
In Trump’s first day in the White House, the administration told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw an Obama-era plan that would require dentists to prevent this mercury from getting into waterways. But in June, the rule was unexpectedly enacted.
This apparent change of heart followed legal action filed by green groups, part of a cascade of courtroom standoffs that are starting to slow and even reverse the Trump administration’s blitzkrieg of environmental regulations.
“The Trump administration has been sloppy and careless, they’ve shown significant disrespect for rule of law and courts have called them on it,” said Richard Revesz, a professor at the New York University school of law.
“I expect we will see a number of further losses for the administration on similar grounds. If they keep showing the same disregard for the law, their attempt to repeal all these environmental regulations will go badly for them.”
The reversal of Obama’s environmental legacy has been spearheaded by Scott Pruitt, who heads the EPA, the agency he repeatedly sued as Oklahoma attorney general. Pruitt, who accused Obama of “bending the rule of law” and federal overreach, has overseen the methodical delay or scrapping of dozens of rules curbing pollution from power plants, pesticides and vehicles.
Ironically for Pruitt, who has touted a “back to basics” approach rooted safely within the confines of the law, this rapidly executed agenda has run into a thicket of legal problems, causing the administration to admit defeat in several cases.
In July, a federal court ruled that the EPA couldn’t suspend…