When Congress has passed laws to protect Americans from various hazards – the Clean Air Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, for example – it has inevitably charged (sometimes created) a federal agency with the task of writing regulations and enforcing the law.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President on an agenda that included generalized opposition to “intrusive” regulations – a campaign platform plank that translated into a no-holds barred effort to cut back on health and safety regulations. A key weapon in that fight was the White Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). By instructing agencies to clear drafts of regulations through OIRA, Presidents have made the agency and its chief, the so-called “Regulatory Czar,” a virtual choke point for federal regulation. Particularly during the Bush II years, OIRA went far beyond its expertise, second-guessing scientific and technical decisions of agencies in order to bend regulations to the White House’s political or ideological agenda.While the Obama Administration took a more favorable view of regulatory safeguards, OIRA still saw fit to substitute its judgement for the expertise of agencies charged with developing regulations. Significantly, the Obama OIRA persisted in imposing a deeply flawed cost-benefit analysis, slowing down an already glacial regulatory process.
In short, the Obama OIRA functioned very much like the Bush OIRA, serving largely as as an impediment to vigorous regulation.
How will the Trump OIRA behave? The record remains to be written, but cause for optimism is in short supply. Trump's anti-regulatory views are well documented, and his early steps -- promising to reduce regulation by 75 percent, ordering agencies to repeal two regulations for each one promulgated -- are at once nonsensical, unworkable and plainly anti-safeguard.
CPR Member Scholars have weighed in repeatedly on the issue of OMB's role in the regulatory process. That work includes:
Coal Ash. OIRA's extended review of EPA's 2009 proposal to regulate coal ash is a case study in what's wrong with the process. OIRA violated the executive order establishing its authority to review regulations by missing its deadlines, then imposed on EPA an alternative, watered-down, regulation, and then saddled EPA's original proposal with a cost-benefit analysis that would make it all but impossible for EPA to describe plainly hazardous coal ash as a hazard. Read CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor's 2010 comments on EPA's proposal and OIRA's role in the process. Read the news release.
Obama Administration's First-Year Report Card. In January of 2010, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Amy Sinden, joined by Executive Director Shana Jones and Policy Analyst James Goodwin, issued Obama’s Regulators: A First-Year Report Card (CPR White Paper 1001), evaluating the Obama Administration's initial efforts on the regulatory front. (Their overall grade: a B-.) The report also graded each of the five "protector" agencies responsible for guarding against hazards to public health, safety and the environment -- theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Read more about the report card, here.
IRIS. Read about efforts to get EPA to update its IRIS database, a gateway to regulating dozens of toxic chemicals already in commerce, and the ways that OMB has slowed down and interfered in the process.
Final Comments on Obama Regulatory ReviewProcess. Read the March 16, 2009 comments Comments Regarding Executive Order on OMB Regulatory Review from John Applegate, Robert Glicksman, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, Amy Sinden, Rena Steinzor, Robert Verchick (collectively the CPR board). The comments call for OIRA to give up centralized regulatory review, and replace its use of cost-benefit analysis with pragmatic regulation impact analysis. Read the web article.
Preliminary Comments on Obama Regulatory Process Memo. Read Rena Steinzor's February 20, 2009 letter to OMB chief Peter Orszag submitting preliminary comments for OMB consideration as it prepares recommendations for President Obama on ways to reform the regulatory process. The letter also called for a formal review period for OMB's proposal once a draft was prepared.
Only 2 of 31… Just 2 of the 31 statutory provisions undergirding the nation’s health, safety and environmental regulatory structure call for cost-benefit analysis. One is the Consumer Product Safety Act. Can you guess the other? Use CPR’s chart to impress your friends.
Editorial Memo. Read "Regulation Makes a Comeback," an October 1, 2008 editorial memorandum by CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor on what the autumn 2008 Wall Street crisis tells us about the dangers of deregulation of environmental health and safety.
Op-Ed. Read "Reviving Regulation," by CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, published in the September 28, 2008 Baltimore Sun.
EO 13422. A 2007 Executive Order from President Bush established a new regulatory process, one designed to make it harder to adopt protective regulations inconvenient to industry. In his second week in office, President Obama revoked the Order. Read about EO 13422.