Md. Officials Blast Trump on Executive Orders, Reports of Agency Elimination

    Maryland officials sounded the alarm Thursday about two executive orders that President Trump signed Wednesday and about published reports that the president may be trying to dismantle a key federal agency.

    Trump signed executive orders designed to speed up federal approval of oil and gas pipeline projects – making it harder for states to reject them. Trump issued the orders after complaints from the oil and gas industry that states and environmental groups are using the environmental review process to slow down or kill energy infrastructure projects.

    Trump’s action brought swift rebukes from green groups and certain state leaders, including Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). The governor blasted the president’s attempts to “erode states’ rights under the federal Clean Water Act.”

    “This top-down order threatens to undermine good environmental stewardship,” Hogan said, citing his role as chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, a consortium of Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia. “It could seriously jeopardize our historic Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, including our regional partnership to reduce pollution and debris at the Conowingo Dam.”

    Specifically, the executive orders call for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new rules for states on how to comply with the Clean Water Act, and also direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to propose a rule allowing liquefied natural gas to be shipped in rail tank cars, and to consult with states, tribes and others before issuing new guidance and rules for states on how to comply with the Clean Water Act. They also take aim at climate change activists by directing the U.S. Labor Department to review whether investment funds that invest based on social goals like protecting the climate are abdicating their responsibility to maximize investors’ returns.

    Some states have already threatened to sue to overturn the executive orders.

    Meanwhile, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) on Thursday reacted angrily to published reports that Trump is considering eliminating the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the human resources office for the federal government. Maryland had 144,542 federal employees in 2018, according to Labor Department estimates – the fourth highest number in the country.

    “For two years, President Trump and Congressional Republicans have sought to undermine our hardworking federal civilian workforce through harmful executive orders, cuts to retirement benefits, and pay freezes,” Hoyer said in a statement Thursday. “As the federal government’s human resources department, OPM ensures that we are hiring and retaining talented Americans to serve the public and that federal employees receive the benefits to which they are entitled as well as training. Dismantling this critical office would further undermine morale and make it more difficult for the federal government to serve the American people.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.