The Goose, the Gander, and an OIRA Checklist

by James Goodwin | November 11, 2010

Late last month, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) posted on its website a document called Agency Checklist: Regulatory Impact Analysis, which, according to the document, is intended to assist federal regulatory agencies with Executive Order 12866-required cost-benefit analyses (CBAs). Such analyses have become a standard, if fatally flawed, stage in the regulatory process.  Substantively speaking, OIRA’s document contains nothing new or particularly earth-shattering—instead, it is merely a checklist of some of the requirements for CBAs established by Executive Order 12866 and Circular A-4, a document issued by OIRA in 2003 to provide agencies with comprehensive guidance on how to produce CBAs.

Significantly, though, Executive Order 12866 also establishes several responsibilities for OIRA to guide its participation in the regulatory review process. As CPR’s previous work has made abundantly clear, however, OIRA fails to live up to many of these responsibilities. So, in the spirit of OIRA’s Agency Checklist, but without endorsing the institutions of CBA or centralized regulatory review, I modestly propose the following OIRA Checklist to assist it when it carries out its responsibilities in the centralized regulatory review process:

  • OIRA should meet the deadlines established by Executive Order 12866 limiting the length of time for regulatory review. Executive Order 12866 section 6(b)(2). For “preliminary regulatory actions,” the deadline is 10 days, and for all other regulatory actions, the deadline is 90 days with the possibility of a one-time 30-day extension. OIRA frequently ...

OSHA's High Hazard Industries – a Look at Some Data

by Matt Shudtz | November 10, 2010
Every year, OSHA mails a letter to about 15,000 employers who run high-hazard worksites, warning them that their most recent annual injury and illness rates were well above average. According to OSHA, For every 100 full-time workers, the 15,000 employers had 4.5 or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer. The national average is 2.0. The letters went out in March, but I just got around to digging into the list of ...

CPR White Paper Identifies Hundreds of Toxic Chemicals Insufficiently Studied by EPA

by Lena Pons | November 09, 2010
A new CPR white paper released today evaluates EPA’s performance in improving its database of human health information on toxic substances. The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) contains “profiles” with bottom-line health effects information for 540 substances; federal regulators, as well as state and local governments and regulated industry itself, rely on the assessments to make decisions in protecting the public from harm. In Corrective Lenses for IRIS: Additional Reforms to Improve EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (press release), CPR found that ...

Measuring Health and Safety Success: By What Yardstick?

by Ben Somberg | November 08, 2010
In a post the other week, Celeste Monforton at The Pump Handle gives a great example of health/safety protection being evaluated the wrong way ("Contractor racks up mine safety violations and unpaid penalties, also wins safety awards.") Monforton points to a large construction company that seems to be collecting safety awards while simultaneously being cited for numerous safety violations (and in January, an employee was killed at a work site). The problem:  Sure, whether workers sustain an injury is something ...

Obama’s Path Forward: Impart a Sense of Urgency to Regulatory Agencies Protecting Health, Safety and the Environment

by Rena Steinzor | November 04, 2010
There’s a lot of punditry left to be committed about whether and how the GOP majority in the House and the enhanced GOP minority in the Senate will work with the Obama Administration. I’m not optimistic. But even if the President and House Republicans are able to find some small patch of common ground, the hard reality that progressives need to swallow is that whatever major progressive legislation will bear Barack Obama’s signature has already become law, at least for ...

CPR Submits Comments to States on Chesapeake Bay Restoration Plans

by Yee Huang | November 04, 2010
Today CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to EPA and each Chesapeake Bay Watershed jurisdiction regarding their draft Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans. The states, we find, need to improve their plans significantly. After more than 20 years of haplessly stumbling toward restoration, often in fits and starts, EPA and the Bay jurisdictions—Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia—have finally agreed on a final destination: the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load). ...

Environmental Regulation, Jobs, and Human Health: Industry Estimates on Boiler Rule Flunk Economics 101

by Catherine O'Neill | November 03, 2010
Economics professors at two major universities just issued their reviews of industry-funded assessments of the costs of EPA’s proposed boiler rule (via NRDC). The professors’ conclusions: “the methodology is fundamentally flawed;” “the resulting estimates of job losses are completely invalid;” “the results reported are useless;” “if I were grading this, I would give it an F.” These strongly-worded indictments should make us sit up and take note.  Professors Charles Kolstad and Jason Shogren were asked to review industry-funded estimates of the costs ...

DC Event -- Regulating from Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity

by Ben Somberg | November 03, 2010
Tomorrow, Thursday, the American Constitution Society will host a midday panel discussion about the issues and ideas presented in Regulating from Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity, by CPR Member Scholar Douglas A. Kysar. The panel includes CPR Board Member Amy Sinden. Drawing insight from a diverse array of sources, including moral philosophy, political theory, cognitive psychology, ecology, and science and technology studies, Kysar offers a new theoretical basis for understanding environmental law and policy. He exposes a ...

Cap-and-Trade is Still Alive (In California)

by Alice Kaswan | November 02, 2010
As “Cap-and-Trade Is Dead” continues to echo through the empty halls of Congress, California rolled out its proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program on Friday. The proposed regulations send a powerful message that, notwithstanding political paralysis at the federal level, the states are proceeding with meaningful climate action. The proposed cap-and-trade program, to be voted on by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) at its December 2010 meeting, is scheduled to take effect in January 2012. At the outset, it will apply ...

In Williamson v. Mazda, SCOTUS Has Chance to Right Preemption Wrongs

by Bill Funk | November 01, 2010
Cross-posted from ACSblog. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 3 in a potentially important preemption case, Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America. In Williamson, a child was fatally injured in a collision when she was sitting in the center rear seat of a Mazda van, secured by a lap belt. The two other passengers in the vehicle, both wearing lap-shoulder belts, survived with minor injuries. The young Williamson, however, suffered severe abdominal injuries and internal bleeding because her ...

The Economics of California's Climate Law

by Ben Somberg | October 29, 2010
Over at Grist, CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman explains why the economic calculations used by the Yes on 23 campaign in California are rather fishy. ...

Moving Along: Preserving the Great Wildlife Migrations

by Yee Huang | October 28, 2010
On November 7, the National Geographic Channel is premiering Great Migrations, a seven-episode series that chronicles the movements of animals on every continent, from the magnificent monarch butterfly migration from Mexico to northern Canada to the impressive wildebeest migration across the plains of the Serengeti. A report by the United Nations concluded that climate change will impact population sizes, species distribution, the timing of reproduction and migration events, and the increased vulnerability to disease and predation. Compounding these effects are ...

Meet the New BOEMRE, Same as the Old MMS

by Holly Doremus | October 27, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The Minerals Management Service within the Department of Interior was responsible for overseeing offshore oil development in federal waters from its creation in 1982 until its demise earlier this year. MMS was always a troubled agency, to put it mildly, dogged by scandals and a revolving door with the industry it regulates. After the Deepwater Horizon incident made its failings obvious, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reorganized MMS out of existence, promising that the new management structure ...

Update: EPA Releases Full FY 2010 Stats on CWA Convictions

by William Andreen | October 26, 2010
Since my post last week ("Convictions for Violations of the Clean Water Act Continue to Ebb"), a number of significant things have occurred. On October 20, the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Cynthia Giles, announced that the Director of the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training was retiring and that the Director of the Criminal Investigation Division had decided to pursue new challenges within the agency. In addition to this personnel shake-up, Assistant Administrator Giles has pledged to ...

The Feds Take On Climate Adaptation

by Daniel Farber | October 20, 2010
On October 14, the White House’s Climate Change Adaptation Task Force released its recommendations to President Obama for how agencies can better prepare the United States to respond to the impacts of climate change.  Once again we are reminded of how important it is to have an Administration that takes climate science seriously. According to the scientists, even if we curb emissions, global temperatures will continue to rise for decades, bringing along with them rising seas, more heat waves, more ...

A New Round in the OSHA-OSHRC Fight Over Noise Exposure

by Matt Shudtz | October 19, 2010
Today, OSHA released a “proposed interpretation” of its 39-year old noise exposure standards. Talk about making up for lost time. All joking aside, this move truly is a positive step for American workers, and may demonstrate a path of action that could help OSHA address hazards in addition to excessive noise.  Over the years, the federal courts and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) have muddied the waters of many OSHA regulations, enforcement policies, and rulemaking procedures. Their sometimes contradictory, sometimes ...

Convictions for Violations of the Clean Water Act Continue to Ebb

by William Andreen | October 19, 2010
According to the latest data published by TRAC Reports, the number of federal convictions obtained for violations of the Clean Water Act during fiscal year 2010 has continued to follow a recent downward trajectory. Since reaching a high of nearly 70 in FY 1998, the number of convictions has continued to decline toward what may be its lowest level since the early 1990s. During the first ten months of FY 2010, the Department of Justice reported 23 convictions, a pace that would ...

MSHA Takes Bold Step to End Black Lung Disease, Proposes Tough New Regulation

by Celeste Monforton | October 14, 2010
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and MSHA asst. secretary Joe Main are proposing new rules to protect U.S. coal mine workers from developing illnesses related to exposure to respirable coal mine dust. The most commonly known adverse health effect is black lung disease, but exposure is also associated with excess risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, progressive massive fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. The proposal, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Oct 19,* ...

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