White House Announces Next Steps on Regulatory Review
by Matthew Madia
Apr 27, 2011
White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein issued a memo April 25 instructing agencies to make public their preliminary plans for reviewing existing rules and to finalize those plans by August.
Under a January executive order signed by President Obama, rulemaking agencies are required to submit to OIRA preliminary plans for reviewing “existing significant regulations to determine whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make the agency's regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.” The plans are due to OIRA May 18.
Sunstein’s memo asks five things of agencies:
- Agencies are to make their plans public within two weeks of May 18. The requirement may seem obvious, but a separate effort in which agencies are developing scientific integrity plans has been less than transparent, and Sunstein is wise to set this expectation now.
- Agencies are encouraged to accept public input for 30 days. This is also a welcome step. However, some agencies, like the EPA and Department of Labor, have already engaged the public. Will they need to do so again? Setting this expectation earlier in the process could have averted duplication of efforts for some agencies.
- Agencies are to revise their plans in response to public input.
- Agencies are to finalize their plans 61 to 80 days after releasing their preliminary plans and to make the final plans public. That deadline will fall between July 18 and August 6.
- Agencies should continue to review rules and periodically update their plans.
Reviewing public policy is a good idea, and agencies should regularly evaluate whether their rules are both effective and sufficiently protective of public health and welfare. However, lookback requirements have historically been used by conservatives as a tactic to target regulations imposing costs on businesses, regardless of the benefits to society.
Obama’s requirement appeared to follow in that tradition: The president announced his executive order in a Wall Street Journal editorial that was bearish on regulatory protections. OMB Watch and others considered the move a sop to conservative lawmakers and industry lobbyists who had been complaining (not that they’ve stopped) that Obama administration agencies are establishing too many new safeguards. (Prior to the order, administration agencies had shown a willingness to stand up to criticism and set standards in the public interest. It’s likely too soon to tell whether the order has depressed agencies’ spirit.)
OMB Watch will be anxious to see agencies’ preliminary plans. Will the plans reflect the current political climate in which regulations are falsely characterized as burdens with little public value, or will they represent an honest evaluation of the effects of regulation and the need to – in issue areas like climate change, toxic chemicals, food safety, worker and miner safety, and others – set new standards that help protect Americans from harms that they cannot detect or guard against on their own?back to Blog