Lisa Heinzerling Reflects on OIRA-EPA Relationship

by Matthew Freeman | May 08, 2013

CPR's Lisa Heinzerling has an article in the most recent issue of the Pace Environmental Law Review, Inside EPA: A Former Insider's Reflections on the Relationship between the Obama EPA and the Obama White House, in which she discusses the ways that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under Cass Sustein exercised control over EPA's regulatory process. She writes that, using cost-benefit analysis as a point of access, OIRA

departs considerably from the structure created by the executive orders governing OIRA’s process of regulatory review. The distribution of decision-making authority is ad hoc and chaotic rather than predictable and ordered; the rules reviewed are mostly not economically significant but rather, in many cases, are merely of special interest to OIRA staffers; rules fail OIRA review for a variety of reasons, some extra-legal and some simply mysterious; there are no longer any meaningful deadlines for OIRA review; and OIRA does not follow – or allow agencies to follow – most of the transparency requirements of the relevant executive order.

Describing the OIRA process as it actually operates today goes a long way toward previewing the substantive problems with it. The process is utterly opaque. It rests on assertions of decision-making authority that are inconsistent with the statutes the agencies administer. The process diffuses power to such an extent – acceding, depending on the situation, to the ...

Cass Sunstein's Departure

by Rena Steinzor | August 03, 2012
The White House today announced the departure of Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. CPR President Rena Steinzor issued the following statement:   Cass Sunstein brought impressive credentials and a personal relationship with the President to his job as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. But in the final analysis, Sunstein has continued the Bush Administration’s tradition of using the office to block needed health and safety protections disliked by big ...

New Report: Behind Closed Doors at the White House, Obama Administration Politicizes the Regulatory Process

by Rena Steinzor | November 28, 2011
When former Harvard Law Professor and eclectic intellectual Cass Sunstein was named administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), conservative, industry-oriented Wall Street Journal editorial writers enthused that his appointment was a “promising sign.” A slew of subsequent events has proved their optimism well placed, as we have noted repeatedly in CPRBlog.  But nothing beats hard, empirical evidence.  In a report released today, CPR announces the results of an exhaustive six-month analysis of the barebones information OIRA ...

Sunstein Denounces SBA's 'Deeply Flawed' Study of Regulatory Costs

by James Goodwin | June 03, 2011
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in mid-April, Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), was asked to comment on a much-disputed $1.75 trillion estimate of the annual cost of federal regulations. The number comes from a report commissioned by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, often referred to as the Crain and Crain report, for its authors. The $1.75 trillion estimate is grossly at odds with ...

Administration's Regulatory 'Look-Back' Announcement Panders to Industry, Focuses Primarily on Eliminating Regs, Diverts Agencies from Crucial Work

by Amy Sinden | May 26, 2011
Following up on President Obama’s January Executive Order calling for agencies to conduct a regulatory “look-back,” the Administration today released a target list of health, safety, and environmental standards to be reviewed by agencies in the coming months, with an eye toward eliminating or modifying them. The President’s January announcement was driven by politics, and from all appearances, the process of reviewing these regulations will be as well. In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, and in a speech ...

The GOP Majority Weighs in on Regulatory Reform

by Rena Steinzor | January 26, 2011
On Capitol Hill this morning, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is holding a hearing on what it describes as the “Views of the Administration on Regulatory Reform.” The star witness will be Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, better known as the “regulatory czar” of the Obama Administration. As you might have read already in this space, last week the President launched a new regulatory initiative in which ...

Eye on OIRA: President Defied by President's Men; Sunstein and Orszag Violate Obama's Own Directive

by Rena Steinzor | April 07, 2010
The system of checks and balances devised by the Framers of the Constitution 220 years ago was all about the sharing of power. In practice, it makes for a messy flow chart, and lends itself to lots of inside-the-Beltway conversation about who’s in, who’s out, who’s winning and who’s losing. But as messy as the how-a-bill-really-becomes-a-law flow chart is, the structure within the White House itself usually features one constant: When the President says jump, staffers ask how high. Every ...

Eye on OIRA: Sunstein Says Ambitious Efforts to Revamp Regulatory Review Tabled for the Time Being. What Does It Mean? Not Much. Just Ask Oscar the Grouch.

by Rena Steinzor | March 12, 2010
In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institute Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein is quoted by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives saying that his ambitious plans for revamping Executive Order 12,866 – the document that governs much of the process of regulating, and particularly OIRA’s role in it –have been tabled for the time being as he and his staff study the lengthy comments presented by a broad range of industry and public ...

The State of the Cost-Benefit State: What We Can Expect from Sunstein, 'Nudge,' and OMB on Regulatory Impact Analysis

by Douglas Kysar | February 05, 2010
This week the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its annual report to Congress on the costs and benefits of federal regulatory programs. For the policy wonks among us, the most intriguing part was a section on recommendations for reform of the OMB regulatory review process. Here we find hints of what might result from President Obama’s long-awaited overhaul of the executive order on regulatory impact analysis. Cass Sunstein – an eminent legal scholar and now head ...

Sunstein Watch: What Progressives Expect from OIRA: An Open Letter to Cass Sunstein

by Rena Steinzor | December 11, 2009
Dear Cass: As you know, we picked a spat with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last week over Randy Lutter’s supposedly temporary detail appointment to your office. It’s not the first time we’ve criticized the workings of OIRA, and almost certainly won’t be the last.  I’ve spoken to a number of people in the media and elsewhere who have expressed surprise that progressive organizations like CPR are such relentless critics of a progressive Administration. I’m sure Administration officials ...

Sunstein Watch: Old Habits Die Hard on the Regulatory Killing Ground; Don't OMB Economists Have Better Things to Do Than Channel Industry Opposition to EPA Science?

by Rena Steinzor | October 19, 2009
Before Cass Sunstein had spent much more than a week as the official director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), he invited us over to the White House to talk about how he wanted to shape his small office of economists and statisticians into a strong force for progressive policy within the White House. Followers of the Center for Progressive Reform know that we put out a report in the run-up to his confirmation that was critical ...

Newly Confirmed Regulatory Czar Needs to Close OIRA’s Backdoor for Special Interests

by Rena Steinzor | September 10, 2009
After weeks of sustained attack from the right-wing on issues that are marginal to the job the President asked him to do, Cass Sunstein has emerged from the nomination process bloody but apparently unbowed (here's this afternoon's roll call). He is now the nation’s “regulatory czar,” Director of the White House OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  Although Professor Sunstein has been sitting in the Old Executive Office Building for months, he has undoubtedly been preoccupied with his nomination battle. Having ...

Cass Sunstein Nomination Clears Cloture Vote in Senate

by Ben Somberg | September 09, 2009
Late this afternoon the Senate ended debate, in a 63-35 cloture vote, on the nomination of Cass Sunstein for Administrator of the Office of Information and Reuglatory Affairs (OIRA). Here's a quick look back at what CPR scholars have said about the Sunstein nomination and the role of OIRA in regulatory policy: CPR Member Scholars' Jan 2009 report, Reinvigorating Protection of Health, Safety, and the Environment: The Choices Facing Cass Sunstein Rena Steinzor: Some troubling words at Sunstein's confirmation hearing, ...

Cass Sunstein and Change We Can Believe In; Bush Administration Traditions Continue at OMB; Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water and Interagency Review

by Rena Steinzor | August 14, 2009
By now, followers of the controversy over the appointment of Cass Sunstein to serve as Obama Administration “regulatory czar” can do little but shake their heads in astonishment. The controversy over the Harvard professor’s nomination to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has taken on a picaresque quality, as one bizarre delay follows another. The latest development in the Sunstein saga is reportedly the placement of another, as-yet unidentified senatorial hold on the nomination, perhaps at the behest of ...

'Curiouser and Curiouser!' Cried Alice ... A Tale of Regulatory Policy in the Obama Administration

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
Like Alice's adventure, the development of regulatory oversight in the Obama administration is becoming "curiouser and curiouser." President Obama selected Cass Sunstein to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a curious choice since Sunstein, although one of the country’s most distinguished academics, is in favor of extending the use of cost-benefit analysis, a position so popular with the business community that the Wall Street Journal endorsed his nomination. Sunstein's confirmation hearing was uneventful, probably ...

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