OIRA's All-You-Can-Meet Policy in Practice: Indulging Industry Lobbyists (It Doesn't Have to Be This Way)

by Ben Somberg | December 02, 2011

The CPR white paper on OIRA earlier this week looked at how this little office within OMB facilitates an industry-dominated process that serves to weaken regulations proposed by federal agencies. Appearances by industry representatives have outnumbered those by public interest lobbyists more than 5-to-1 in meetings at OIRA in the last ten years, the paper found (3,763 to 708, for the record).

Does it have to be this way?

The Obama Administration has said on numerous occasions that it has an “open door” policy at OIRA. But while “open door” sounds good in theory, the hard evidence shows that this very policy facilitates industry’s domination of the process.

The Administration has actually defended the open door policy by going one step further, such as with these words from then-OMB spokesman Tom Gavin:

Gavin said the White House office is required by executive order to meet with all interested parties who request a meeting. The office has not refused a meeting with anyone who has asked for one, he said.

As the white paper notes, no such provision in an executive order actually exists – not in EO 12,866, nor in the more recent EO 13,563. (The Administration also made the claim here.)

So what should be done, given the imbalance of the influences on the meetings process? The white paper co-authors first recommend:

OIRA should stop meeting with outside parties during its consideration of ...

OSHA Expands National Emphasis Program for Chemical Facility Process Safety Management

by Matt Shudtz | December 01, 2011
This week OSHA expanded a two-year-old enforcement program aimed at preventing catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals—the type of headline-grabbing event that ruined thousands of lives in Bhopal in 1984 and was narrowly avoided in West Virginia in 2008.  Originally targeted at just three regions (and optional for state-plan states in those regions), the National Emphasis Program for PSM Covered Chemical Facilities (aka “Chem NEP”) has now been expanded nationwide and requires all state-plan states to adopt their own version ...

Sweeping Anti-Reg Bills Reach House Floor

by Ben Somberg | December 01, 2011
The “Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act” (RFIA) and the “Regulatory Accountability Act” (RAA) are headed for votes on the House floor shortly (today and/or tomorrow). The “Gum Up Public Health and Safety Protections Act” apparently wasn’t going to sell as well. A quick recap of the Regulatory Accountability Act, via CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro’s Congressional testimony on the bill in October: The regulatory system is already too ossified, and H.R. 3010 would only exacerbate this problem.  It currently takes four to ...

Is State Ownership of Public Trust Waters At Risk When SCOTUS Hears PPL Montana v. Montana?

by Robert Adler | November 30, 2011
When the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument in PPL Montana, L.L.C v. State of Montana on December 7, it will consider issues of constitutional history dating to the early days of the American Republic and legal sources that some claim (and others dispute) trace to Magna Charta and the Institutes of Justinian in Roman law. The court will also consider a factual record that includes the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Moreover, the case involves a challenge for ...

Even More Evidence Disputes Claims that Regulation Is Stalling Economic Recovery, But Regulatory Opponents Continue to Press Their (False) Claims

by Sidney Shapiro | November 29, 2011
Republicans in the House have spent much of the fall trying to blame regulation for the nation’s slow economic recovery.  The fact that there is no reasonable evidence to back up this claim is apparently not a concern for the regulatory opponents.  Moreover, regulatory opponents skip entirely over the impacts of the failure to regulate, pretending that while regulation imposes costs on the economy, the failure to regulate does not.  Now, there is even more evidence of that regulation cannot ...

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 ...

Small Business Owners: Top Concern is Poor Sales. Blanche Lincoln: Top Concern is Regulations.

by Ben Somberg | November 22, 2011
Former Senator Blanche Lincoln, currently heading an anti-regulatory campaign called “Small Businesses for Sensible Regulation,” appeared on CNBC on Friday to make her case. Lincoln’s been busy trying to use different iterations of a debunked SBA report claiming astronomical costs for regulations. This time she skipped that piece, but offered this take (at 3:15): This is the single most important issue to small businesses. It’s the biggest threat. The compliance with government regulations that don’t make sense, that cost ‘em ...

Sore Losers: Two House Subcommittee Chairs Want to Discount the Lives of Seniors in Last-Ditch Effort to Downplay Benefits of Clean Air Regulation

by Amy Sinden | November 17, 2011
Remember that kid on the playground who always insisted on changing the rules of the game and then still threw a tantrum when he lost? That’s just the kind of spoiled-brat behavior we’re seeing from the coal industry and its elected agents on Capitol Hill this week. Coal and other polluting industries have spent decades complaining about the federal laws that protect public health and the environment, arguing that we should change the rules by which they operate, forcing agencies to perform ...

Fifth Circuit Mulls Katrina Flood Ruling

by Robert Verchick | November 15, 2011
    Today’s question: When are flood waters not “flood waters”? We New Orleanians have become fluent in all things subaqueous; last week three Texans sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals took their turn. Yes, we’re talking about Katrina. Or, more specifically, its flood waters, which busted federal levees in fifty places, swamped 80% of New Orleans, and caused 800 deaths in the urban area. It is beyond argument that federal malfeasance played a key role. But sovereign immunity ...

TransCanada Says Nebraska Bill on Pipeline Rerouting Is Unconstitutional. Here's Why They're Wrong.

by Sandra Zellmer | November 14, 2011
The Nebraska Legislature is in a special session currently to consider five bills concerning the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The situation was shaken up by Thursday’s announcement from the Obama Administration that it was pushing back its decision on federal approval of the pipeline. This news may take away some urgency for the Nebraska Legislature, but considering that no options (including the original proposed route) have been taken off the table, the bills remain firmly relevant. Nebraska—and any other states ...

What's New in Climate Economics

by Frank Ackerman | November 09, 2011
Cross-posted from Real Climate Economics. Economic analysis has become increasingly central to the climate policy debate, but the models and assumptions of climate economics often lag far behind the latest developments in this fast-moving field. That’s why Elizabeth Stanton and I have written Climate Economics: The State of the Art, an in-depth review of new developments in climate economics and science since the Stern Review (2006) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), with more than ...

How the Tenth Circuit Upheld the Clinton-era Roadless Rule

by Holly Doremus | November 08, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. You wouldn’t think courts would still be deciding, late in 2011, whether actions taken by the Clinton Administration were lawful. But they are. Late last month, the Tenth Circuit upheld the Roadless Rule for national forests issued at the very end of the Clinton presidency. The Roadless Rule, which largely prohibited road construction and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas, has been the subject of a game of judicial and executive ping-pong. Wyoming challenged the rule, ...

National Meat Association v. Harris: More Preemption in the Supreme Court

by Bill Funk | November 04, 2011
On November 9th the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in National Meat Association v. Harris, wading once again into the mire of federal preemption. The National Meat case involves a California statute that prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory animals for human consumption and requires that non-ambulatory animals be immediately and humanely euthanized. A federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), thoroughly regulates, although one could question how strictly, the process of slaughtering animals for human consumption. It also contains an express ...

Lisa Jackson at Berkeley Law

by Holly Doremus | November 04, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Yesterday, Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment hosted a public presentation by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She delivered brief prepared remarks, then took a lot of questions. She didn’t announce any new policy initiatives, but she did make it clear that she (and the President) are not going to cave to pressure from Republicans in the House. Jackson did seem glad to be well outside the Beltway for a while, and who can ...

Still Thought We Wouldn't Notice: Blanche Lincoln Cites Debunked SBA Study Again, Highlighting Different Statistic

by Ben Somberg | November 01, 2011
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Blanche Lincoln was trying to fool us. The former Senator currently heads the National Federation of Independent Business’s anti-regulatory campaign, and is in DC today to push for a freeze on new regulations. For her accompanying op-ed in Politico, how would she make the case that regulations are a huge problem? Back in August, Lincoln wrote that regulations cost the U.S. economy $1.75 trillion a year, according to a report commissioned by the ...

Newest Research on Effects of Mercury Underscores Importance of Utility MACT

by Catherine O'Neill | October 28, 2011
As EPA’s long-awaited rule curbing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants heads to OMB for its review, new scientific studies suggest that the harms of mercury contamination may be more severe and more widespread than previously understood. According to the report Great Lakes Mercury Connections: The Extent and Effects of Mercury Pollution in the Great Lakes Region, released October 11, “the scope and intensity of the problem is greater than had been previously recognized.”  Despite these harms, utilities have been relentless in ...

Rep. Ralph Hall's Clean Energy Standard Is Unrealistically Harsh And Unsophisticated

by Frank Ackerman | October 27, 2011
Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) has asked the Energy Information Administration to evaluate an unrealistically harsh and unsophisticated clean energy standard, designed to represent the Republicans’ worst nightmare: every electricity retailer in the country (some of them quite small) must meet a relatively high and rising standard for low-carbon energy, starting very soon, with no trading between companies, banking of excess credits, or other flexibility mechanisms that would soften the blow. Even the Republican nightmare doesn’t look ...

If Cost-Benefit Analysis is Good, Is More Cost-Benefit Analysis Always Better?

by Daniel Farber | October 26, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Of course, not everyone agrees that CBA is good in the first place.  It remains anathema to many environmentalists.  My own view is that it can be a useful tool so long as its limitations are clearly understood. But just because something is good doesn’t mean that more is better.  My grandmother’s view was that if a recipe called for two eggs and one tablespoon of butter, four eggs and two tablespoons would produce an even ...

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