Spotlight Feb. 2021: Biden Administration Starts Announcing Team Picks, Orders Regulatory Reviews and Rollbacks

  • by ACWA Staff
  • Feb 12, 2021
  • Newsletters

The incoming Administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during the past month has released information on initial leadership teams at several federal agencies and departments, while also calling for regulatory reviews and revocations in several areas affecting the water industry.

New Team Members at EPA, Interior 

Among the numerous appointees, at the Department of Interior (Interior) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), several names were familiar to many working in the water industry. Specifically, at Interior, the placement of Tanya Trujillo as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science was long anticipated.

Trujillo is a water lawyer with more than 20 years of experience working on complex natural resources management issues and interstate and transboundary water agreements. She most recently worked on the Colorado River Sustainability Campaign and previously served as the Executive Director of the Colorado River Board of California. Trujillo also brings with her experience as Senior Counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Also joining the Interior team is Maria (Camille) Touton as Deputy Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation. Touton, a former Interior staffer, is returning to the department after serving as a staff member on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Touton recently staffed the resiliency provisions of the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), although her experience in Congress spans well beyond those efforts. Additionally, during the Obama administration, Touton served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at Interior. 

Similarly, at EPA, the Biden administration placed Radhika Fox as the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water. Fox heads to EPA from the US Water Alliance, where she was the Chief Executive Officer. Additionally, she previously worked in the government affairs team at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. 

Confirmation hearings for Biden appointees will continue throughout most of 2021. As of Feb. 8, the Senate confirmation process was underway for Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary, Michael Regan as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Jennifer Granholm as Energy Secretary and Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. 

ACWA will continue to track nominations and appointments to permanent positions at the various federal agencies and departments that impact California water agencies.    

Regulatory Actions

Biden in January signed an Executive Order rolling back six Trump Administration orders along with issuing two memos on regulations. The Executive Order will potentially impact water agencies through changes in federal permitting, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

The incoming Administration also ordered the freezing and review of a list of regulatory actions. They include species-specific actions such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion on coordinated operations between the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, a key factor in negotiations leading to Voluntary Agreements on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta. 

Another review will focus on a revised endangered species designation for the Northern Spotted Owl, which could impact the work of ACWA agencies that are supporting projects to enhance headwaters forest health.

Further details on the freeze and review of federal regulations were outlined in a memo to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. The freeze includes the Navigable Water Protection Rule, the recently released Nationwide Permit Rule, the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions, a number of Endangered Species Act provisions and the updated National Environmental Policy Act rule.

Additionally, the Biden Administration issued a memo that directs the Office of Management and Budget to work with agency heads to develop a set of recommendations for improving and modernizing the regulatory review process. It asks for suggestions on how to “promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.” 

ACWA is closely tracking federal developments as the Biden Administration seeks policy changes, and will provide further updates. Visit www.acwa.com/newsroom for a Jan. 27 version of this article containing links to the Executive Order and other documents.

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