By Chris Adams

The president wants to dramatically change the country’s environmental policies. How quickly can he do that?

Not as fast as he might think.

Lisa Heinzerling, a law professor at Georgetown University who served as an associate administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Policy, detailed the process by which federal agencies write, update or overturn rules.

It’s a long and complicated process – but one that gets to the very heart of what governing is all about.

“What reporters often don’t know about is how extensive the process is that rules go through – and now much the law limits what can be done about that,” she said.

Heinzerling led National Press Foundation fellows through a detailed description of the Administrative Procedures Act, the 1946 law that sets the process by which agencies such as the EPA are allowed to change their regulations.

She explained the difference between the rule-making process and the adjudication process, both of which can result in agency action. A rule, for example, was the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan; adjudication was the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

And she explained the rulemaking process, which includes a proposed rule, public comment (with differing time periods) and the final rule, which is designed to synthesize and respond to all those comments that came in.

Finally, she explained where to get information on the process for specific rules, including regulations.gov, the Federal Register and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is part of the White House.