Senators' Letter Brings Welcome Oversight to Troubled White House Office

by James Goodwin | May 10, 2018

Yesterday, six senators, led by Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, criticized Trump administration "regulatory czar" Neomi Rao and her office for what appears to have been a slapdash review of a highly controversial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft policy designed to stifle the agency's progress on advancing environmental and public health protections. Rao is the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a small but powerful bureau located within the Executive Office of the President. For nearly four decades, OIRA has enjoyed broad and largely unchecked authority to interfere in pending rulemakings and to secretly quash or water down those measures that might be politically inconvenient for the president. 

In a letter to Administrator Rao, the senators identified several irregularities with OIRA's review of EPA's proposed rule on the use of science to inform regulatory policy. Taken together, these irregularities suggest that OIRA's review was little more than a "rubber stamp" from a White House that is equally committed to defeating environmental and public health safeguards. Contrast that with the intense push-back from clean air and clean water advocates, legal experts, independent scientists, and the editors of the leading scientific journals, who quickly identified the rule as a significant threat to public health and the fundamental tenets of crafting public policy based on the best information available. 

Consistent ...

FERC Rejection of Coal Subsidies Proposal Demonstrates Importance of Independent Agencies

by James Goodwin | January 09, 2018
On January 8, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) struck a resounding blow against the Trump administration's ill-advised agenda to put its thumb on the scale of the energy market by propping up the coal industry, unanimously rejecting a controversial proposal by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry. Perry's plan would have resulted in working families and small businesses subsidizing the coal industry to the tune of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. Dozens of energy policy ...

The Most Important Revolving Door You've Never Heard Of

by James Goodwin | June 29, 2017
Earlier this week, Axios and Greenwire ($) reported that international oil behemoth BP is bringing on a new lobbyist to work on "[r]egulatory reform advocacy related to Federal energy and environmental rules," as described in the required lobbying disclosure statement. That in itself is hardly news. What makes this story remarkable is who the lobbyist is, or in this case, was. Nathan Frey, who appears to be the only partner with the lobbying firm Regulatory Strategies and Solutions Group, used ...

New Report: With Assault on Safeguards, Trump Trounces Constitution, U.S. History

by James Goodwin | June 21, 2017
Today, Neomi Rao is likely to take one step closer to becoming the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – that is, the Trump administration's "regulatory czar" – with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expected to favorably report her nomination to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.  As detailed in an April 2017 CPR report on her nomination, Rao would arrive at her new position with little substantive expertise related to ...

Questions Arise as Senate Prepares to Take Up Nomination for Key Trump Regulatory Post

by Robert Verchick | June 06, 2017
Tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will examine and likely vote on President's Trump's selection for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA is the most important government office most Americans have never heard of. It is the depot through which all regulatory freight must pass, the place where ideas go to be sorted, weighed, green-lighted, or buried. It's the ganglia of the president's bureaucratic brain. At the center of those fluttering ...

New Report: Trump's New 'Regulatory Czar' and the Continuing Assault on Our Safeguards

by James Goodwin | April 20, 2017
As the clock ticked closer to the end of the work day a few Fridays back, the Trump administration quietly made an announcement certain to put smiles on the faces of many corporate interest lobbyists in and around the DC Beltway: Neomi Rao, a little known but very conservative law professor at George Mason University's Scalia Law School, would be the nominee for Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The announcement probably went unnoticed ...

The Key Ingredient in Trump's Anti-Reg Two-for-One Executive Order? Fuzzy Math

by James Goodwin | April 12, 2017
Steve Bannon's crusade to deconstruct the administrative state took two big steps forward last week, concluding with Donald Trump nominating George Mason University Law School professor Neomi Rao as his "regulatory czar." CPR will publish a new report on the role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator during the Trump administration in the days to come, but for now, I want to focus on the first big development: Acting Administrator Dominic Mancini's new memo providing agencies ...

CPR's Heinzerling Calls on Next President to Scrap White House Regulatory Review Process, Start from Scratch

by Brian Gumm | October 31, 2016
Earlier this month, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy published a collection of essays filled with legal and policy recommendations for the next president. Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling closed out the publication with a piece on improving federal environmental policy, which includes recommendations for how the next president can ensure that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) stays out of the way.  Under the auspices of a series of executive ...

Five Years Ago Today: When Obama Put Politics Ahead of the Public Interest

by James Goodwin | September 02, 2016
September 2, 2011, was a lot like today, the Friday before a long holiday weekend.  While many were already turning their attention to backyard barbecues and afternoon naps in hammocks, the then-Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Cass Sunstein, the controversial official charged with supervising federal regulatory activities, dropped a bombshell. In a notice known as a “return letter,” Sunstein publicly announced that President Obama was rejecting what would have been one of the most important ...

Old and New Capture

by Sidney Shapiro | July 07, 2016
Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro. Although it is well known that regulatory capture can subvert the public interest, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are two forms of capture that can affect the performance of regulatory agencies. The "old capture"—which is what most of us think of when we think of regulatory capture—occurs when regulators become so co-opted by the regulated entities or special interests they are supposed to regulate that they end up working to ...

CPR's Driesen to Give House Judiciary a Tough Review of OIRA

by James Goodwin | July 06, 2016
This afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law will hold an oversight hearing that looks at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the powerful White House bureau that sits at the center of the regulatory universe.  Originally created to oversee federal agencies' implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act, a series of presidential executive orders stretching back to the Reagan administration has endowed OIRA with a powerful gatekeeping role over executive agencies' rulemaking ...

On Regulatory Reform, It's Now Warren vs. Sunstein

by James Goodwin | April 19, 2016
Several weeks ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered perhaps the most important speech on the U.S. regulatory system in recent memory at a forum on regulatory capture organized by the Administrative Conference of the United States. In it, she described how the regulatory system was not working for the people as it should be – or as Congress had intended. Instead, she described how corporate influence over the regulatory process has become so far-reaching and so overwhelming that it has become ...

No Benefits Allowed? Mercatus Study on Federal Regulation and the States

by James Goodwin | April 08, 2016
Over the last few years, deregulatory advocates have pursued a well-trodden path for advancing their anti-safeguard agenda: Publish a large, glossy "study," replete with impressive mathiness, that purports to measure the impacts of regulation but in fact provides a highly skewed portrayal by consciously ignoring the many benefits that regulations provide. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Last week, the libertarian Mercatus Center did the latest trodding when it released a study that ranked all 50 states (and the ...

18th Straight OMB Annual Report in a Row Finds Total Regulatory Net Benefits

by James Goodwin | March 15, 2016
Over the weekend, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the final draft of its annual report on the costs and benefits of federal regulation, which purports to provide a reasonably complete picture of the total impact that federal regulations have on the U.S. economy. This year’s final report finds that federal regulations generated total benefits in the range of $216 billion to $812 billion (in 2001 dollars; in 2010 dollars, the range recalculates to $261 billion ...

Shining Light on Regulatory Capture: Four Proposals

by Sidney Shapiro | March 11, 2016
The subject of regulatory capture was back on Capital Hill last week as the result of a briefing sponsored by Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). In 2010, I testified concerning regulatory capture in a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), but in the midst of the broad-scale conservative assault on regulation, the issue hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves. That’s unfortunate for a simple reason. As Rena Steinzor and I establish in our book, many ...

Senate Republicans Flip-Flop on the White House and Independent Agencies

by James Goodwin | March 02, 2016
Yesterday, the Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC)—the Senate committee with primary oversight jurisdiction over the regulatory system—published a report detailing their shock and dismay over a Wall Street Journal story alleging that the White House "may have inappropriately influenced" the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) so-called "net neutrality" rule. In releasing the report, Committee Chairman Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) could barely contain his contempt: "It is concerning that an independent agency like the FCC ...

More Delay for OSHA's New Silica Rule

by Katie Tracy | February 24, 2016
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informally announced that it is unlikely to finalize its long-awaited rule to limit workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica by the month's end, as the agency had expected. OSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Jordan Barab, told Politico on Friday, Feb. 18, that he "can pretty much guarantee" the rule will be delayed, but he expects "it will be out soon." The silica rule, which OSHA proposed ...

Midnight Regulations, Shmidnight Shmegulations

by James Goodwin | February 12, 2016
In case you didn’t get the memo:  President Obama is entering the last year of his final term in office, so now we’re all supposed to be panicking over a dreaded phenomenon known as “midnight regulations.”  According to legend, midnight rulemaking takes place when outgoing administrations rush out a bunch of regulations during their last few days in order to burnish their legacy or make concrete several of their policy priorities in ways that would be difficult for a successor—presumably ...

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