AP Says Administration "Unleashes New Rules;" Mostly Finds Examples of Rules Not Unleashed

by Amy Sinden

December 14, 2012

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress.

“Election over, administration unleashes new rules,” trumpeted an Associated Press story this week.

What are these newly unleashed rules? Perhaps the big food safety rules that have been stalled for more than a year have gone through? Rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants? Long-awaited rules to protect coal miners’ safety?

Not quite. In fact, the AP strained to come up with just tiny examples: “[T]he Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules to update water quality guidelines for beaches and other recreational waters and deal with runoff from logging roads.”

The recreational waters standard was a welcome development, but not particularly consequential or abrupt. EPA was required by law to issue the recreational water standards by 2005; it has issued them now only after being ordered by a court to do so. And as the agency explained in its press release, “The criteria released today do not impose any new requirements; instead, they are a tool that states can choose to use in setting their own standards.”

As for the rule earlier this month on runoff from logging roads, it’s not what you might imagine: it says that EPA will not be regulating pollution from logging roads. That regulation was issued in an incredibly short period of time; it took only three months from the agency proposing a rule to issuing its final “rule.” If only the Administration were so aggressive with protective rules.

The AP next points to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposal to require event data recorders (black boxes) in cars. Also a welcome requirement, but again not evidence of the regulatory deluge that conservatives quoted in the article bemoan. In reality,96 percent of new cars already have the devices, and the auto industry is not opposing the requirement.

In truth, the administration has made little apparent progress on environmental, health and safety since the election. Given that the administration essentially stopped regulating for a period of months in the run-up to Election Day, we might have expected more activity. Some progress is possible later today, when the EPA is under court order to finally issue a rule on soot pollution. But a host of key rules still hang in the balance.

The administration needs to finalize rules reducing greenhouse gas emissions from refineries and lowering the sulfur content in gasoline. It needs to finish rules to finally protect miners from black lung disease, and it needs to publish a rule to protect construction workers from deadly silica dust — a proposal that has languished at the White House for nearly two years.

Where can you hear about those? In the AP article, remarkably. They’re buried down there at the bottom, below all the GOP’ers complaining about some fictitious “regulatory onslaught.”

The article chronicles Republican and big business complaints that the administration will indeed eventually issue these and other significant environmental, health and safety regulations. That remains to be seen, and I’m hopeful that it does, since those rules would deliver huge benefits to the public. But contrary to the AP’s headline and opening paragraphs, no such thing has happened just yet.

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Also from Amy Sinden

Amy Sinden is the James E. Beasley Professor of Law at the Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and at the Temple-Tsinghua Masters of Law program in Beijing,China. She is a member of the board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform.

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