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States gear up to fill any EPA vacuum

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States, many of which are already active in environmental regulation, are expected to step up their involvement if an expected withdrawal of federal regulation materializes.

The Trump administration, which has vowed to reduce environmental regulation, has proposed a 31% cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s funding — the largest proposed cut for any federal agency.

Kevin J. Bruno, a partner with Blank Rome L.L.P. in New York, said people who follow the issue think that if there were a significant decrease in environmental activities and priorities by the federal government, much of it will be taken up by either the state agencies or nongovernmental organizations, which have already become much more active in “getting out in front” of regulation.

Some states such as California have already introduced more stringent regulations at the state level, said Mark J. Plumer, a partner with Pillsbury, Winthrop Shaw Pittman L.L.P. in Washington.

“State regulators may increase their activity if they perceive a vacuum being created,” while third parties “may actually be more likely to resort to legal mechanisms if they see an absence of federal oversight,” said Christopher V. Smy, Atlanta-based global practice leader for Marsh L.L.C.’s environmental practice.

“States will continue to play a very significant role in the cleanup of properties that are within their jurisdictions,” said Matt O’Malley, Exton, Pennsylvania-based president of XL Group Ltd.’s North American environmental insurance group.