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With the full participation and consent of Congress, President Trump has embarked upon a radical project to freeze and roll back federal regulations that protect public health, safety, the environment, and the economy. The principal justification for this project, publicly announced by both Congress and President Trump, is the claim that regulations are costing the American economy $2 trillion per year, thereby destroying jobs. This claim derives from two studies that have received wide and credulous circulation in the media, on Capitol Hill, and in the White House.
President Trump issued a proclamation in December 2017 purporting to remove two million acres in southern Utah from national monument status, radically shrinking the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and splitting the Bears Ears National Monument into two residual protected areas. Whether the President has the power to revise or revoke existing monuments under the Antiquities Act, which creates the national monument system, is a new question of law for a 112-year-old statute that has been used by Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama to protect roughly fifteen million acres of federal land and hundreds of millions of marine acres.
I am honored to introduce Ecology Law Quarterly’s special issue on environmental governance and technology. This dedicated volume focuses on the tension between rapidly advancing data technology and slower-moving law and policy adaptation. This issue could not come at a more important time, as we are in the midst of a historic transformation of our data capacities.
Environmental regulation invariably requires making decisions in the face of scientific uncertainty. However, making decisions in the near-absence of evidence—essentially, the most extreme uncertainty—is a special case because it most plainly exposes the defaults and preferences of those making the decisions, and because it may inspire creative ways of reducing the probability of error.