Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have long celebrated the number 42 as the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.” Now, the number 42 also happens to be the number of meetings that OIRA has hosted regarding EPA’s pending coal ash rule, as it works toward developing the Obama Administration’s answer to the ultimate question of how to regulate the disposal of this toxic waste.
OIRA Meetings on Coal Ash, as of April 5, 2010
(Click links to see attendees and examine documents presented to OIRA staff.)
Parties Supporting EPA Proposal (13)
- Public Interest Groups (12): 3/16/10; 3/11/10; 3/11/10a; 2/25/10; 2/25/10a; 2/24/10; 2/24/10a; 2/16/10; 12/16/09, 12/16/09, 12/11/09, 12/10/09a; 11/13/09
- Environmental cleanup industry (1): 1/27/10
Parties Opposing EPA Proposal (29)
- Power Plant Industry and affiliates (5): 12/22/09, 11/12/09b, 11/04/09, 10/28/09, 10/16/09
- Coal mining industry (1): 11/10/09
- Reuse industries and reuse users (23): 2/18/10; 1/28/10, 1/21/10, 1/21/10a, 1/19/10, 1/15/10, 1/12/10, 1/8/10, 01/04/10, 12/18/09, 12/15/09, 12/14/09a, 12/10/09, 12/09/09, 12/7/09, 12/1/09, 11/30/09, 11/23/09, 11/17/09, 11/16/09, 11/13/09a, 11/12/09a, 11/12/09
Those 42 meetings represent just over half of the 80 meetings OIRA has hosted regarding its review of all of the EPA’s proposed and final rules. In total, OIRA has held 142 meetings on pending rules during the Obama Administration. The meetings regarding the coal ash rule comprise 30% of those meetings (42/142)—by far the largest percentage for any one rule. Of course, when OIRA hold meetings to discuss general topics—such as the role of cost-benefit analysis in regulatory policy—it does not post similar notices.
Most of the recent coal ash rule meetings have involved public interest groups, though the vast majority of meetings still involved industry representatives who opposed EPA’s proposed rule. The real problem, though, isn’t the ratio of meetings involving parties opposed to the rule to meetings involving parties in favor of the rule. (After all, it’s not as if public interest groups will achieve some victory by having an equal number of meetings as industry representatives.) Instead, the real problem is that OIRA is hosting this many meetings regarding a single rule in the first place—all before EPA has published a proposed rule, which will be subject to public comment by any and all parties (as required by law).
An Administration Official claimed in January that OIRA is required by Executive Order to meet with every stakeholder that asks for a meeting, but nothing in Executive Order 12866—which defines OIRA’s regulatory review responsibilities—supports this claim.
OIRA should immediately release the rule back to EPA, the body that Congress has charged with the responsibility of soliciting and considering public input on the substance of environmental regulations like this one.