Tag Archives: regulations

If Big Business Wrote a Letter to Santa Claus this is What It Would Say

If Big Business wrote a bill to help itself get rid of regulations it didn’t like, what would that bill look like?

We don’t have to guess anymore. This week, a group of legislators introduced the Regulatory Improvement Act, a bill designed to “improve” our nation’s regulatory system, remove “government bureaucracy and red tape,” and help businesses avoid the “burden” of complying with safeguards and standards that protect our health, safety, environment and workers. Their solution? Have politicians appoint a panel to recommend regulations for Congress to ax in a rushed process.

The bill sets up a so-called “Regulatory Improvement Commission” tasked with an already predetermined outcome. That outcome is deregulation, plain and simple. Deregulation, you probably remember, led to the financial crisis of 2008. In a time when we’ve seen so many instances of industry bad actors — including at least 13 deaths due to faulty GM ignition switches that company officials knew had problems, years of toxic air pollution and water pollution from giant companies, and financial service companies like Sallie Mae taking advantage of our veterans — should we really be thinking about how to remove vital public protections for our health, safety, environment and financial security?

The commission’s mandate would be to modify, consolidate or repeal existing regulations to reduce compliance costs for business, completely ignoring the tremendous societal benefits that standards and safeguards give to the American people.

While it takes years for a federal agency to get a final rule out the door after numerous periods of public comment and review, this commission could erase this beneficial work within months. The review process is blatantly tilted toward benefitting corporate interests rather than the public interest. The procedure for how public comments on the commission’s reports are received, and even the way the commission is tasked with writing its reports on regulations are all slanted to examining the burden on businesses, never the benefits to the public. For instance, even the “costs” associated with doing taxes counts as a burden!

Supporters argue that the commission can review only those regulations finalized more than 10 years ago. Just think of how much progress we have made in the past four decades from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and much, much more. Regulations created from these and other laws would now be at stake.

And if there is an outdated regulation that could be removed, would it be worth all of this effort? There may well be a regulation pertaining to floppy disks, fax machines or pagers—but no one uses them anymore, and those regulations aren’t costing us anything to have written down somewhere. Is it worth setting up a new commission to remove superfluous regulations like that? Besides, most agencies already look back at existing rules – in a process that is far more careful and less politicized than the one this bill proposes.

And after all this, the commission is completely unaccountable to the public. The bill expressly states that the commission is exempt from the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (which requires public accessibility to meetings, open meetings and written advanced notice of a meeting a minimum of 15 days prior). According to the Regulatory Improvement Act, if just one member of the commission objects to a meeting being public, that meeting can be held in private.

Our vision for regulatory improvement

Nowhere does the Regulatory Improvement Act provide a way to update standards, make them stronger or more effective. If we were to write our own Regulatory Improvement Act, we would call for a regulatory review process that focuses attention on the need for stronger controls on corporations and expanded protections for the public.

Just because something is repeated often does not make it true. There is not an overabundance of regulation in this country. In reality, too much of our regulatory system has today slowed to a crawl, thanks in part to Big Business pushing at every point in the process to slow or stop new standards. They lobby against new laws; they lobby against new rules that agencies write under the existing laws; and then they lobby against strong enforcement of the rules that do get through.

By updating safeguards to better protect the public and making sure corporate bad actors are held accountable, our vision of regulatory improvement will be creating a system of standards and safeguards that better protects health and safety and puts everyone on a more equal footing, creating a fair economy for all.


The Human Cost of Regulatory Delay

Too often, important regulations that would protect Americans from harm are stalled for months or years in a regulatory process that has become needlessly byzantine and slow, with very real costs for workers, consumers and the broader public

 August is a great time for outdoor gatherings. No one should have to worry about whether their store-bought produce is safe to consume—especially when it comes to their kids. Delays have hindered the FDA’s efforts to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, slamming the brakes on necessary protections that would keep our fruit and vegetables safe. Draft rules on the safety of imported food took two years to be released, including more than one year stalled in White House review.

 As we pack up our cars and hit the road for vacation, backup cameras would give drivers needed visibility to avoid preventable accidents and deaths. Unfortunately, this auto safety rule has been in the works for more than five years, and far longer than Congress intended. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that backup cameras would prevent between 95-112 deaths and 7,072-8,374 injuries each year.

Finally, delayed energy efficiency rules have made cooling off with air conditioning more costly than necessary. The cost of the administration’s delay has already exceeded $4 billion in missed savings for consumers and businesses. The environmental damage has been no less significant.

  Regulatory delays have become so severe that many are now looking into it.  A newly formed Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action is holding its first hearing to investigate the problem on Aug. 1, bringing in those who know first hand the human costs of regulatory delay. Tune in to the webcast of this event and join us on Twitter to create a buzz around this hearing.

Senate Hearing to Bring Some Sanity to the Debate Over Federal Regulatory Policy

The following post is from James Goodwin at the Center For Progressive Reform

Tomorrow, a new panel in the Senate Judiciary Committee—the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action—will bring some much-need sanity to the discussion of federal regulatory policy when it holds a hearing entitled “Justice Delayed: The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis.” What’s so refreshing about this hearing is that it starts from the premise that blocked and delayed safeguards are a problem that needs to be solved.

Crucially, this hearing will provide an opportunity to shine a light on the costs that are imposed on the public when regulations aimed at protecting people and the environment are unnecessarily delayed. These costs represent real harm to real people—and they are by definition preventable.

Previously, in this space, I examined the costs to the public that would result from the new delays to three rules that were announced in the Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda. These included at least 300 premature deaths from the delay of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Rearview Mirror Rule and at least 1,000 premature deaths and 1,467 non-fatal heart attacks that would result from the delay of the EPA’s updated ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). All of these costs are preventable, but not prevented.

Several of the scheduled witnesses for tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary hearing will help to provide a clear picture of what the costs of regulatory delay entail. CPR President Rena Steinzor will testify about how environmental regulations have benefited the public greatly, and how the continued delay of several pending safeguards—such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules to control disposal of hazardous coal ash waste and to require cleaner-burning automobile fuel—produce great harm.

Tomorrow’s hearing is a welcome development, because when it comes to the issue of federal regulatory policy, sanity has been in short supply on Capitol Hill for the last four-plus years. And the timing of the hearing couldn’t be better, as it takes place during what House Republicans are calling “Stop Government Abuse Week,” a week dedicated to bashing public servants and voting on ill-conceived bills, including the REINS Act and theEnergy Consumers Relief Act, which if passed, would make it all but impossible for the EPA and other agencies to carry out their congressionally mandated missions of safeguarding the public.

As the two anti-regulatory bills illustrate, House Republicans have a pretty strange conception of what constitutes “government abuse.” The apparent “problem” these bills seek to address is when federal agencies—including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and others—follow the clear instructions that Congress gave to them and issue regulations in accordance with the provisions of duly enacted law.  Evidently, the EPA’s efforts to limit toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, as it is required to do so under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (which, by the way, passed the House by a whopping 401 to 21 margin, with the support of several of the current House GOP’s most outspoken EPA critics, including Don Young of Alaska and Joe Barton and Lamar Smith of Texas), aren’t an example of our constitutional system of government in action; this is bureaucratic overreach and a brazen intrusion on individual freedom of choice. Only in the warped minds of House Republicans could the implementation of congressional mandates—or, as Article II of the Constitution so dryly puts it, “tak[ing] Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”—rise to the level of such flagrant government abuse that it necessitates an entire week to redress.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad—and if it didn’t threaten to have such disastrous consequences for public health, safety, and the environment.

For too long, House Republicans have been free to carry out their anti-regulatory crusade, buoyed by their disregard of the very real harms that regulatory delay imposes. So ingrained are the tendencies, I do not expect them to change overnight. But, hopefully tomorrow’s hearing can serve a crucial first step in reframing how regulatory policy is understood and debated on both ends of Capitol Hill.

The hearing is set to take place at 2:00 p.m. in Hearing Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

James Goodwin, Policy Analyst, Center for Progressive Reform. Bio.

By the Numbers: The Costs of New Regulatory Delays Announced in the Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda

The following post is from James Goodwin of the Center For Progressive Reform. It can be found at The Center For Progressive Reform blog

“April showers bring May flowers.” To that well-known spring-related proverb one might soon add “the Spring Regulatory Agenda brings new groundless complaints from corporate interests and their anti-regulatory allies in Congress about so-called regulatory overreach.” Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration issued the 2013 edition of the Spring Regulatory Agenda, one of two documents the President must issue every year (the other is published in the fall) that compiles and summarizes the various regulatory actions that the Administration expects to take in the near future. Over the past few years, regulatory opponents have grown fond of pointing to the Spring and Fall Regulatory Agendas as still further evidence of the so-called “regulatory tsunami” that is allegedly hindering the economy and to support their campaign to “reform” our regulatory system.  I expect that these same groups will waste little time in the coming days to misrepresent the latest regulatory agenda to bolster their attacks on our system of regulatory safeguards.

In fact, a careful comparison of one Regulatory Agenda to the next reveals just the opposite of what regulatory opponents claim: progress on needed safeguards has all but stalled, as new rules have become subject to new delay upon new delay. Rather than documenting a flurry rulemaking activity, the semiannual Regulatory Agenda has become more of a litany of the latest delays of and extensions to expected timelines for issuing proposals or final rules.

The EPA’s stormwater rule clearly illustrates this phenomenon. Compare the following timetables the stormwater rulemaking included in past regulatory agendas:

  • Spring 2010 Regulatory Agenda (first time listed in an Agenda; rule categorized as a “long-term action,” which means that the agency responsible for the rule doesn’t expect to take any significant rulemaking action within the next year or so).
  • Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 Regulatory Agendas (now rule is categorized as being at the “proposed rule stage,” which means that the agency responsible for the rule expects to issue a proposal within the next year or so).
  • Fall 2011 Regulatory Agenda (rule still categorized as in the “proposed rulemaking stage,” but the expected completion date for the notice of proposed rulemaking (NRPM) has been pushed by four months).
  • 2012 Regulatory Agenda (note that the Obama Administration issued only one Regulatory Agenda in 2012; rule still categorized as in the “proposed rulemaking stage,” but the expected completion date for NRPM has been pushed by another 17 months and the expected completion date for the final rule has been pushed back by 25 months).
  • Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda (the rule has been re-categorized as a “long-term action,” and now there are no expected completion dates for the NPRM and final rule).

I have been following the EPA’s stormwater rule for over three years now; it is one of the first rules I check whenever a new Regulatory Agenda is released. With each new Regulatory Agenda, I’ve watched as the Obama Administration has kicked the rule down the road little by little. As of the 2012 Regulatory Agenda, this critical rulemaking—which is essential to tackling the problem of nonpoint source water pollution, perhaps the leading cause of degraded water quality in this country—was at least two years behind schedule. With this latest twist in the Spring 2012 Regulatory Agenda, it’s not clear when—or even if—this rulemaking will ever see the light of day.

Of course, opponents of regulation like to pretend that these delays in regulation are at worst “cost-free.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Each month of delay for these safeguards inflicts real harm on real people—lives lost, illnesses and injuries suffered, ecosystems irrepealably damaged, and money wasted. And because these costs are the result of delay, they are all by definition preventable.

Using the agencies’ analyses of regulatory benefits for just a few pending rules we can get a tiny glimpse of how costly the latest round of delays announced in the Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda will be for public health, safety, and the environment:

Safeguard New Delay (Comparison of 2012 Regulatory Agenda to Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda) Costs to the Public
Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Silica rule 2 months at least(See 2012 and Spring 2013) At least 10 premature deaths(OSHA estimates that the rule will prevent at least 60 deaths every year)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Rearview Mirror Rule 18 months at least[Note: The rule is now categorized as a long-term action indicating that NHTSA will not issue a final rule in at least the next 12 months; separately the head of NHTSA recently informed Congress that a final rule would likely not be complete until January of 2015 at the latest](See 2012 and Spring 2013) At least 300 premature deaths (roughly half of which will be children under the age five)(NHTSA estimates that the rule will prevent at least 202 deaths every year)
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard Update 8 months at least[Note: The rule is now categorized as a long-term action indicating that the EPA will not issue a proposal in at least the next 12 months; separately the EPA has announced that it will not undertake key preliminary steps to issuing the proposal until at least March of 2014](See 2012 and Spring 2013) At least:·       1000 – 2867 premature deaths·       1467 non-fatal heart attacks·       113,333 lost work days·       400,000 missed school days

[Note: these calculations are based on benefits estimates that the EPA developed for its abandoned 2011 ozone update (see page 7); the current update is likely to set a similar standard and produce similar benefits]

Several other rules are subject to new delays according to the new Regulatory Agenda, but there are no data with which to calculate what the costs of these delays will be. Some of these other rules include the EPA’s coal ash rule (at least 6 months more delay) the Mining Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) rule to protect miners from black lung disease (at least 3 months more delay), and OSHA’s rule to strengthen protections for workers against exposure to beryllium, a known human carcinogen.

The cause of these repeated delays are many. Throughout the rulemaking process, agencies are subjected to near-constant political interference, most notably through the centralized regulatory review process superintended by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). To complete a rulemaking, agencies must negotiate an expanding universe of regulatory and analytical requirements. Some, such as OIRA’s review process, offer powerful conduits for political interference; others simply tie up agencies with time-consuming and resource-intensive analyses. These analyses do little—if anything—to improve the quality of individuals. Rather, they succeed only in adding months if not years to the rulemaking process. Finally, agencies must overcome all these obstacles while facing constant or even shrinking budgets, essentially forcing them to do more with less. Taking all these factors into account, it’s clear why repeated delays are the rule and not the exception.

What’s not clear is how—in the face of all this evidence of persistent and sweeping delay—that regulatory opponents can, with a straight face, claim that the United States is in the midst of a “regulatory tsunami.”

Rather, these delays demonstrate clearly that agencies are being prevented from implementing the statutory missions that Congress has assigned to them in a timely manner. The resulting delays impose unconscionable costs on the American public. Congress and the White House need to take responsibility for their contribution to this unacceptable state of affairs, and they must begin finding ways to affirmatively support—rather than obstruct—agency efforts to protect people and the environment.

[i] To see the original post click here

Rearview Visibility Act Stalled at OIRA

President Barack Obama has nominated Howard Shelanski to be the next administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a key executive branch office that wields heavy power in rulemakings and public protections. Too often, OIRA has served as a place where needed rules get weakened, stalled or blocked at the behest of corporate and industry interests. The next OIRA Administrator needs to change course and advance stalled rules that protect the lives of workers, ensure the safety of our food and protect our environment. CSS’ recently released report, Down the Regulatory Rabbit hole, details eight key regulations stalled in the regulatory process, whose delay has caused needless harm to the public. Some of the most important rules have been stalled for more than a year.

A key auto safety rule provides an example.

Imagine the horror of backing over your own child as you leave your driveway – because he was in the large blind zone behind the car and could not possibly be seen. This is the nightmare that Karen Pauly endured two years ago, when she backed over her 19-month-old son, Jack, on her way to the grocery store.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 221 people die and 14,000 are injured each year in “backover” accidents. KidsAndCars.org estimates that between 1990 and 2010, as many as 1,002 children have died by being backed over by a vehicle. These tragic deaths led Congress to pass the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act in 2008. Congress ordered NHTSA to issue rules that would give drivers visibility in blind zones that prevent them from seeing pedestrians when backing up. In 2010, NHTSA proposed addressing this visibility requirement by installing rear-view cameras. The rule has now been stuck at OIRA since November 2011.

The benefits of this rule could not be clearer. NHTSA estimates that requiring backup cameras could prevent between 95-112 deaths and 7,072-8,374 injuries each year. Moreover, 44 percent of those injured or killed in these accidents are children under the age of 5, and too often, these accidents involve parents injuring or killing their own children.

If the benefits are so clear, why is the rule delayed? OIRA makes decisions on editing or blocking rules partially based on cost-benefit analysis, where the estimated costs of implementing a rule are weighed against the monetary benefits it is predicted to bring. But this way of analyzing rules is deeply flawed because it does not take into account benefits that cannot be properly quantified–like the incalculable benefit of avoiding the horrible experience of backing over your own child.

If we want to save lives and spare parents the devastating heartbreak of inadvertently killing or injuring their own children, OIRA must release the rule. Senators should ask the nominee if continued delay on the rear visibility rule would be acceptable to him if he were confirmed. And the next OIRA administrator should recognize the limitations of focusing only on cost-benefit analysis to determine whether a rule is appropriate or not.

Council on Foreign Relations: Free Trade and Regulation: Making Both Better

by Edward Alden

Freer trade and effective government regulation have been seen by many critics as antithetical. In “Better Regulation for Freer Trade”, a Policy Innovation Memorandum released today by the Renewing America initiative, Thomas J. Bollyky argues that this is a false choice. Opponents of new trade rules warn that giving governments, or worse corporations, the power to challenge national regulations that interfere with the movement of goods could trigger a “race to the bottom” in which nations would be forced to degrade environmental, health and safety laws to abide by trade rules. Bollyky argues that instead, progress on trade and effective regulation of products are “mutually dependent.”

The issue is again coming to the top of the international trade agenda. The United States and the European Union are considering the launch of bilateral free trade negotiations, and the issue of what to do over divergent – or unnecessarily duplicative — consumer and environmental protection standards will be perhaps the toughest issue in the negotiations. The long-standing trans-Atlantic dispute over the safety of genetically-modified organisms in food crops is only one of a long list of issues.

Similarly, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks linking the United States to many Asian economies, improved regulatory coherence is a major U.S. goal. Those negotiations resume with a 13th round in San Diego in early July. Bollyky urges the United States to use the TPP and other regional negotiations to drive the adoption of international standards, with reporting requirements that would hold countries accountable even as enforcement of standards and regulations remains entirely within national authority. He notes that trade agreements that have adopted these models have produced a nearly 8 percent rise in trade flows among members.

Like commerce, Bollyky writes, regulatory problems have increasingly jumped national boundaries, and international cooperation is needed not just to facilitate trade and development, but to protect health and safety as products criss-cross borders. The recalls five years ago involving imports of Chinese toys, toothpaste and tires show how quickly poorly inspected products can become major public health concerns.

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SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce – Congressional field hearing yields real small business issues

by The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce

South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney held a field hearing in Rock Hill, SC, yesterday titled “Caught Up in Red Tape: The Impact of Federal Regulations on Small Businesses and Contractors”. Mr. Mulvaney is the Chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce.

I wasn’t able to attend the meeting but did have a long conversation with the Rock Hill Herald reporter, Ms. Jamie Self, who covered the event.

I expected the hearing would turn into a showcase for anti-regulation mantra we hear so often from politicians. To my surprise, I was told that no one testified that regulations were killing jobs. Instead the views expressed were about big businesses having an advantage over small businesses getting government contracts, lack of knowledge about the Affordable Care Act benefits for small businesses and the lack of customers—all very real issues.

So congratulations to Mr. Mulvaney for not trying to stack the deck with anti-regulation rhetoric testimony. By simply opening up the forum to all comers, he heard real concerns from small business owners—not political talking points.

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