Skipping Rulemaking Process with Backroom Fuel Economy Deal, White House Opened Itself to Darrell Issa's Attack

by Shana Campbell Jones | August 01, 2011

Amy Sinden and Lena Pons explained in this space on Friday morning how the White House’s fuel economy deal with the auto industry bypassed the rulemaking process and the agency experts charged with determining the “maximum feasible” standard under the law. Late Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, joined the fray, promising an investigation of the process. (And we didn’t even know he was a reader of CPRBlog!)

Chairman Issa’s notion that the deal between the White House and automakers was too stringent is absurd, of course. But his stated concern about “the agreement’s lack of transparency, the failure to conduct an open rulemaking process” is absolutely correct.

There’s not much room for doubt that Mr. Issa’s real interest here is in weakening the fuel economy standards, and the administrative process argument is just the tool at hand.

But there’s a lesson here for the White House: By circumventing the rulemaking process in favor of a backroom deal, the Administration left itself vulnerable to Issa and others who will seize on any procedural failing to try to block progress on fuel economy standards. You follow the administrative process because you’re vulnerable to a challenge if you don’t. The irony is that the White House thought getting a deal with the automakers was exactly what they needed to make the plan a done deal. Darrell Issa is going to try to make ...

EPA Moves Forward Toward Test Rule for BPA; Effects on Humans Still Primarily Outside Scope of Process

by Aimee Simpson | July 29, 2011
EPA made further progress this week in its efforts to move forward with a potential Bisphenol-A (BPA) Test Rule, publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register. Overall this progress is good news, though it’s not without its flaws. EPA completed a draft of the ANPRM in December and sent it over to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review, pursuant to Executive Order 12866. Despite a 10-working-day deadline for review of ANPRMs, OIRA spent ...

White House Flouts Agency Heads, Rolls Out Backroom Deal on Fuel Economy Standard

by Amy Sinden | July 29, 2011
This post was written by Member Scholar Amy Sinden and Policy Analyst Lena Pons. This morning President Obama will make an announcement about upcoming fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025. The announcement will reference the Administration’s plan to propose a standard to reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. These standards will set the pace at which automakers improve the fuel economy of cars for many years to come, and help ...

Amidst GOP Anti-Regulatory Budget Riders, a Familiar Plan for Paralysis by Analysis

by James Goodwin | July 28, 2011
House Republicans are fond of accusing the Obama Administration of trying to “regulate when it cannot legislate.” With a slight modification, a similar accusation can be hurled at House Republicans: They are trying to appropriate when they cannot legislate. This accusation has the benefit of actually being true. The Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill for the EPA and the Department of Interior, currently being debated in the People’s House, is loaded down with dozens of anti-environment and anti-public safety policy riders.   Several of ...

Holding its Legal (and Parental) Ground: EPA Responds to the American Chemistry Council's Request for Correction of the BPA Action Plan

by Aimee Simpson | July 26, 2011
Being a parent is not easy, but some of the most difficult moments arise when you know what needs to be done to protect your child and your child has other sentiments. Call it a temper tantrum, a battle of wills, or disobedience, it all evokes a sense of frustration, exhaustion, and, let’s face it, self-doubt. There is that brief moment when you think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to let them have their way? Maybe I am being too harsh ...

Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products: How the First Circuit Opened Courthouse Doors for Wronged Parties to Present Wider Range of Scientific Evidence

by Carl Cranor | July 25, 2011
In Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceutical,  General Electric. v. Joiner, and Kumho Tire v. Carmichael the U.S. Supreme Court sought to bring principles for reviewing expert testimony in line with the Federal Rules of Evidence. The opinions sought  to ensure that legal arguments would better comport with the pertinent science needed for the legal cases at issue. To achieve this goal the court gave trial judges a greter duty to review expert testimony for relevance and reliability before plaintiffs could bring ...

UK Report: Behavioral Change Takes More Than a Nudge

by Holly Doremus | July 22, 2011
No one seems to like the idea of regulation these days. Nudges, alternatives that try to get people to voluntarily alter their behavior by changing the context in which they make decisions, have been widely touted as a better approach. Cass Sunstein, Obama’s “regulatory czar” in the Office of Management and Budget, is a leading proponent of the “nudging” idea, and the co-author of a popular book promoting the concept that people should be gently helped to make better decisions ...

EPA Finalizes Mountaintop Removal Guidance

by Holly Doremus | July 21, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. After a three-and-a-half month delay for White House review, EPA has finalized its guidance for review of mountaintop removal mining permits in Appalachia. I needn’t have worried that the White House would roll EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on this one. The final guidance maintains the strong stand EPA took last April when it issued the interim guidance it finalized today. The thrust of this final version, like the interim guidance, is that EPA will actually exercise ...

Facing up to the Real Cost of Carbon

by Frank Ackerman | July 21, 2011
This item, cross-posted from Triple Crisis, was written by CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman and fellow Stockholm Environment Institute-U.S. Center economist Elizabeth A. Stanton. Your house might not burn down next year. So you could probably save money by cancelling your fire insurance. That’s a “bargain” that few homeowners would accept. But it’s the same deal that politicians have accepted for us, when it comes to insurance against climate change. They have rejected sensible investments in efficiency and clean energy, ...

When Politics Trump Science: How the Ozone Standard's Three-Year Delay Has Already Led to Thousands of Avoidable Deaths

by Rena Steinzor | July 20, 2011
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst James Goodwin. Few incidents better illustrate the Bush Administration’s outright hostility to politically inconvenient science than its 2008 rule updating the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). In the run-up to that rule, Bush’s EPA ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), an independent and well-respected advisor to the EPA on clean air issues, that it set the standard in the range of ...

White Paper on Habitat Conservation Plans and Climate Change

by Holly Doremus | July 20, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Melinda Taylor at the University of Texas School of Law and I have just put out a white paper on Habitat Conservation Plans and Climate Change: Recommendations for Policy.  It can be accessed here through Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, or here through UT’s Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law. A lot of attention has been paid lately to what role, if any, the Endangered Species Act should play ...

How to Diss A Book Without Reading It

by Carl Cranor | July 19, 2011
When you write a book, particularly one that has something to do with matters political, you have to expect criticism. So when I wrote Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants (Harvard, 2011), I fully expected it to take a shot or two – not just from some of my colleagues in academia, but also from allies of the chemical industry. In fact, since this book isn’t exactly my first rodeo, I’ve grown accustomed to reviewers ...

Regulatory Plans Show Agencies at Risk of Failing to Finish Numerous Critical Rules During President Obama's First Term

by Lena Pons | July 18, 2011
In April, CPR released a paper that looked at 12 critical rulemaking activities that we urged the Obama administration to finish by June 2012. The new regulatory agendas released by the agencies earlier this month show that instead of moving forward, the agencies are often slowing down.  Contrary to the “tsunami” of regulations that the Chamber of Commerce claims is hampering economic recovery, this is a molasses flow that will delay life-saving public protections for workers, air breathers and water drinkers.  ...

Debunked SBA Regulatory Costs Study Front and Center at House Energy & Commerce Committee Hearing

by Ben Somberg | July 15, 2011
The House Energy & Commerce sub-committee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing yesterday on “regulatory chaos” (yikes!). One figure seemed popular: $1.75 trillion. That’s how much regulations cost the U.S. economy each year, sub-committee vice-chair Tim Murphy said in his opening statement. Two of the four witnesses made the same claim in their testimony (William Kovacs of the Chamber of Commerce and Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business). The committee’s briefing memo on the hearing ...

The Big Business Dilemma: What Could Happen When Government Is Gone

by Rena Steinzor | July 14, 2011
The nation’s capital is all but intolerable these days, even for those of us who have lived here for decades and are used to excessive histrionics and gross summer weather. A pall of bad, hot, wet air has settled over the place, and serves as a backdrop to the slow-motion car wreck that is the debt ceiling negotiations—in every sense a crisis of political creation. In the midst of this misery, a small spark of comic relief was provided yesterday by ...

Through the Looking Glass: Chemical Industry to Star in the Role of Weeping Walrus at House Hearing on EPA's Assessment of Toxic Chemicals

by Daniel Rosenberg | July 14, 2011
Editor's Note: This morning, CPR President Rena Steinzor will testify at a House hearing regarding EPA's Integrated Risk Information System chemical database (full testimony). This post by NRDC Senior Attorney Daniel Rosenberg, cross-posted from Switchboard, explains the importance of IRIS and how the program is under attack. Thursday morning, the House Science Committee’s Investigation and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on EPA’s premier program for assessing the dangers of chemicals.   It is called the IRIS program, (which stands for ...

Some Pleasant Surprises in Agency Regulatory Plans

by Lena Pons | July 13, 2011
Last week, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget released the semiannual regulatory agenda. I pointed out that the agenda, which contains the regulatory agencies’ planned actions, was quite late. Although the plans share problems from past years, like simply pushing back the target dates for regulatory actions, there are some pleasant surprises. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving forward with some proactive regulatory responses to the Toyota recalls of ...

President Obama's Puzzling New Executive Order: Should the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Really be Spending Its Precious Time and Resources Weakening Existing Regulations?

by Thomas McGarity | July 13, 2011
On Monday, the White House announced that President Obama had signed a new executive order on federal regulation to supplement January’s executive order to executive branch regulatory agencies. The new executive order is aimed at the “independent agencies,” so named because the heads of those agencies do not serve at the pleasure of the president. By statute, they serve for a term of years and can be removed from office only “for cause,” which usually means misbehavior unrelated to the exercise of ...

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