Center for Progressive Reform

Regulatory Policy

Regulatory Tools to Protect People & the Environment

Middle school civics texts tell us that Congress writes the laws and the executive branch enforces them. In practice, of course, it’s a good deal more complicated than that.

When it comes to health, safety and the environment – the Center for Progressive Reform’s core issue areas – executive branch enforcement of the law has become yet another arena to fight and re-fight policy battles presumably settled in Congress. In particular, regulated entities – including companies that pollute or that make potentially dangerous products – have become especially savvy at leveraging their relationships in Washington to weaken and delay regulations necessary to enforcing laws duly enacted by Congress and the President.

In the view of CPR Member Scholars, the federal regulatory system has fallen – or perhaps more accurately, been pushed – into a state of disrepair. Much needed health and safety regulations have been delayed for years, weakened to the point of ineffectiveness, and then sporadically enforced. Federal agencies charged with protecting Americans from various hazards in our food, consumer products, chemicals in commerce, the air and water, and in the workplace have been drastically underfunded, and until recently, their agendas diverted.


Twin Demons

In a June 2017 paper, CPR Member Scholar Joseph Tomain dissects two executive orders aimed at gutting safeguards for health, safety, and the environment. He concludes that they are at once nefarious and ham-handed.

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Assault on Our Safeguards

As the Trump team geared up, CPR Member Scholars and staff launched an initiative to document and combat the Trump Assault on Our Safeguards -- what CPR's Thomas McGarity calls, the Fifth Assault.

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Legislative Attacks on Regulation

Politicians are convinced that Americans hate regulation. In fact, Americans approve of sensible safeguards to protect health, safety, the environment, the economy and more. CPR Member Scholars are firm believers in well-crafted regulations that help protect Americans from a range of hazards. But the attacks on regulation persist.

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CRA by the Numbers

Most of the legislation signed by Donald Trump in the early days of his administration were repeals of Obama era environmental, health, safety, and consumer rules -- sent his way courtesy of the GOP-controlled Congress and the Congressional Review Act. Read CPR's "CRA by the Numbers."

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Regulatory System in Disrepair and Under Attack

The consequences of our failed system of regulation are the stuff of national headlines – the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion, as well as poisonous children's jewelry and toys, contaminated cantaloupe and other produce, drugs with fatal side effects, and more. The agencies established to protect Americans from these hazards need to be reinvigorated, and their efforts to protect Americans given higher priority.

The Obama Administration did not create the regulatory mess, but it made little progress fixing it. As the Trump Administration took hold of the regulatory reins, its allies in Congress began working to throw even more hurdles in the path of meaningful regulation.

Bad Facts, Worse 'Solutions'

Much of the opposition to regulatory safeguards for health, safety and the environment relies on trumped-up "data," and the supposed solutions offered by regulatory opponents are thinly veiled efforts to relieve polluters and others from the obligation to clean up the mess they make and the hazards they create. CPR Member Scholars have addressed both the bad facts -- like the much-repeated fabrication that regulation imposes $1.75 trillion in costs to the economy -- and the bad "solutions"  like "regulatory pay-go," the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (SBRFIA)Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (UMITA) and various other pieces of legislation aimed at hampering the enforcement of laws duly enacted by Congress and the President. Read more about the bad facts and worse solutions that drive the anti-regulation campaign on our Legislative Attacks on Regulation page. And keep tabs on the Trump Administration's efforts to undercut Obama regulations on our Assault on Our Safeguards page.

SBA's Advocacy Office Loses Its Way

One source of opposition to sensible safeguards for health, safety and the environment comes from within the Administration itself: the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Established to look out for the interests of small businesses in regulatory and other matters, the Office has morphed into an anti-regulatory beachhead within the federal government, working in concert with special interest lobbyists to delay, water down and defeat sensible safeguards. Moreover, the Advocacy Office often acts on behalf of businesses that no one could accurately describe as "small" -- 1,000-employee chemical plants and 1,500-employee petroleum refineries, for example.

In a January 2013 white paper CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro and Policy Analyst James Goodwin explain:

The Office exercises…authority by superintending agency compliance with an expanding universe of analytical and procedural requirements—imposed by a steady stream of statutes and executive orders issued during the past three decades—that purportedly seek to ensure that agencies account for small business interests in their regulatory decision-making. Controversial rules can quickly become mired in this procedural muck, and an agency’s failure to carry out every last required analysis with sufficient detail and documentation can spell doom for even the most important safeguards. This system provides the Office of Advocacy with a powerful lever for slowing down rules or dictating their substance.

Read this web article for more.

Read about the Member Scholars’ efforts on regulatory issues on these pages: 

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