Sunstein’s “Simpler Government” Is Legally Suspect, Overly Secretive And Politically Unaccountable

By Lisa Heinzerling
Originally posted on Think Progress

In his new book, “Simpler: The Future of Government,” Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein writes about his nearly four years as President Barack Obama’s “regulatory czar.” As the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (known as “OIRA”) within the Office of Management and Budget, Sunstein oversaw the regulatory output of the many agencies of the executive branch. Rules on worker health, environmental protection, food safety, health care, consumer protection, and more all passed through Sunstein’s inbox.

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Long-Term Chemical Hazards Pose Significant Challenges for Workplace Safety Agency

The New York Times published a front-page story over the weekend focusing on the problems the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) faces in trying to protect workers from latent hazards posed by chemical exposures at work.

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Tragic Grain Silo Deaths Highlight Need for Stronger Workplace Safety Enforcement

For anybody concerned about worker safety, recent stories by NPR, the Center for Public Integrity, PBS Newshour, and the Kansas City Star are must-reads. These news reports highlight the recent, tragic deaths of two teenagers who were suffocated in grain storage bins while "walking" the grain (breaking it up so it could flow more easily out of the silos).

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Anti-Regulatory Forces Target Agency Science to Undermine Health and Safety Standards

As committees of the 113th Congress begin to implement their agendas, it is increasingly apparent that environmental and health standards, and the science serving as the basis for these protections, will remain a favorite target of anti-regulatory legislators. Last session's industry-supported proposals to change scientific assessment programs would undermine environmental, health, and safety standards, yet they are likely to reappear. Meanwhile, new investigations underscore that these measures ignore the real impediments to improving the credibility and usefulness of agency science and risk assessments.

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Stronger Standards for Hazardous Chemicals Benefit the Public and Spur Innovation

Stronger standards for hazardous chemicals not only protect human health and the environment, but can also spur innovation and benefit the economy. A recent report, Driving Innovation: How stronger laws help bring safer chemicals to market, examined the impact of laws governing hazardous chemicals and found that the prospect of stricter laws on toxic chemicals sparked the invention, development, and adoption of alternatives. The demand for these alternatives is growing globally.

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More American Workers Will Die as Silica Rule Delayed

Silica has long been known to cause silicosis, a progressive, irreversible, but preventable lung disease that kills people. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that in 2007, 120 workers died from silicosis; 180-360 new cases of the disease are reported each year. Recent evidence shows that silica exposure also causes lung cancer. OSHA estimates that a lower allowable limit on silica in the workplace would prevent 60 deaths each year.

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Two New Reports Reveal How the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration Has Worked to Block Public Safeguards

Last Tuesday, the Center for Effective Government and the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) released separate reports on the activities of a little-known, but powerful, office within the Small Business Administration—the Office of Advocacy. The reports uncovered how the Office of Advocacy actively works to delay and block public safeguards and the release of important information that has serious implications for Americans' health and well-being.

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Small Businesses, Public Health, and Scientific Integrity

This report examines the activities of an independent office within the Small Business Administration: the Office of Advocacy. The Office of Advocacy has responsibility for ensuring that federal agencies evaluate the small business impacts of the rules they adopt. Scientific assessments are not “rules” and do not regulate small business, yet the Office of Advocacy decided to comment on technical, scientific assessments of the cancer risks of formaldehyde, styrene, and chromium. By its own admission, Advocacy lacks the scientific expertise to evaluate the merits of such assessments.

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Agency Attempts to Block Scientific Assessments of Toxic Chemicals

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013—In a report released today, the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) documents attempts by the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration to thwart important agency assessments of chemical toxicity at the behest of lobbyists for large chemical companies. No actual small businesses requested these interventions, according to the materials the Center for Effective Government obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

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The Obama Administration's Regulatory Agenda: Many Overdue Rules Need to Be Finalized to Fulfill Legislative and Public Safety Promises

Each year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is supposed to publish two agendas of planned rules and at least one regulatory plan summarizing economically significant rulemakings likely to move forward in the near future. In 2012, the Obama administration skipped the spring agenda entirely and did not publish the fall agenda until December, likely because of the elections. The plan that finally emerged contains some positive measures but does not go far enough to significantly advance consumer, workplace safety, or environmental protections.

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