Mission Critical: Under New Regulatory Czar Shelanski, OIRA Must Begin to Affirmatively Help Reinvigorate the Regulatory System

by James Goodwin | July 03, 2013

Welcome aboard, Administrator Shelanski.  You’re already well into your first week on the job as the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).    You’ve already received plenty of valuable advice—during your confirmation hearing and from the pages of this blog, among other places—on how you can transform OIRA’s role in the regulatory system so that it’s not a continued impediment to effective government.  For example, many have urged you to end the pattern of long-overdue reviews at OIRA (at last count, 72 of the 137 rules undergoing review are past the 90-day limit provided for in Executive Order 12866), to improve transparency of OIRA’s reviews so that decision-makers can be held publicly accountable for changes they make to pending safeguards, and to restrict the use of cost-benefit analysis as a means for justifying the dilution of safeguards so that they are weaker than what applicable law requires.  These practices not only leave the public inadequately protected against unreasonable risks; they also amount to a kind of usurpation of the public will by thwarting the effective and timely implementation of laws enacted through the constitutionally-defined legislative process that is central to our unique republican form of government.

Yes, transforming OIRA so that it is not objectively “bad” is an important start.  But now I would like to urge you to think bigger and bolder.  In particular, I would ...

Anything but Generic: Supreme Court Preemption Opinion Calls for Correction from Congress and the FDA

by Thomas McGarity | July 02, 2013
Lost among the high-profile opinions that the Supreme Court issued during the past two weeks was a case that attracted little media attention, but is of great importance to the millions of Americans who take generic drugs. Karen Bartlett, a secretary for an insurance company filed the lawsuit against generic drug manufacturer Mutual Pharmaceutical Company.  When Karen visited her doctor complaining of shoulder pain, he prescribed Clinoril, one of many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) that are commonly used to treat ...

CPR's John Echeverria's NY Times Op-Ed on Supreme Court's Latest 'Takings' Decision

by Matthew Freeman | June 28, 2013
CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria has an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times on the Supreme Court's end-of-term decision in a land-use case, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. Although the case has been somewhat overlooked amidst the Court's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, and its landmark decisions on same-sex marriage, it has long-term and critical implications. Echeverria warns that the decision will: result in long-lasting harm to America’s communities. That’s because the ruling creates a perverse incentive ...

Statement by CPR Scholar Sid Shapiro on the Senate's Confirmation of Howard Shelanski as Head of OIRA

by Erin Kesler | June 28, 2013
Last night, the Senate confirmed Howard Shelanski as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget. As we've written about before, the confirmation of Shelanski as head of OIRA comes at a criticial juncture. OIRA is tasked with reviewing rules proposed by federal agencies. Presently,  of the 139 rules under review at OIRA, 71 are well beyond the 90-day review limit imposed by Executive Order 12866.  Below is Center for Progressive Reform Member ...

CPR's Heinzerling Reacts to President's Climate Change Speech

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 25, 2013
At a speech this afternoon at Georgetown University, President Obama outlined a series of aggressive steps aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing the nation to adapt to the now unavoidable effects of climate change. Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling issued the following reaction: The President’s speech offered exactly what many of us have been waiting to hear from him: A solid commitment to use the tools available to the EPA to finally get the federal ...

Congressional Briefing: Anti-Regulatory Myths: What Regulatory Critics Don't Tell You

by Erin Kesler | June 24, 2013
Is the annual cost of federal regulation really $1.75 trillion?  Do regulations really hinder job creation and economic growth? Is it true that agencies are free to issue costly regulations without legal authority or political accountability? These are just some of the myths spread by supporters of legislation to further weaken the ability of protector agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to carry out ...

Three Food Safety Rules Grow Moldy at OIRA, as Import-Related Outbreaks Continue

by Michael Patoka | June 21, 2013
About 15 percent of all foods we consume are imported. Looking at some particular categories, the numbers are far more striking: imports make up 91 percent of our seafood, 60 percent of our fruits and vegetables, and 61 percent of our honey. Most of these imports come from developing countries that lack any effective health and safety regulation—like China, which has had a seemingly endless run of food safety scandals and yet supplies 50 percent of our apple juice, 80 ...

House Amendment to Farm Bill Would Spur USDA Action on Flawed Poultry Slaughter Rule

by Matt Shudtz | June 20, 2013
Hot on the heels of a USDA Inspector General’s report that highlights the failings of privatizing pork inspection, the House yesterday approved an amendment to the Farm Bill that pressures USDA to institute the same type of system in the poultry slaughter industry.  The poultry rule, which we’ve written about in this space before, is not yet in final form, but the poultry industry and its supporters are pushing it in that direction.  The Inspector General’s report adds to the ...

The Lesson of Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann: Water Conservation, not Water Commerce

by Christine Klein | June 19, 2013
It’s been more than 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared that water is an article of commerce and that Nebraska’s attempts to prevent the export of “its” groundwater to neighboring Colorado violated the dormant Commerce Clause.[1] The high Court did not return directly to the issue until last week’s ruling in Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann.[2] [3] This time, a unanimous Court ruled againt the would-be exporter--Texas--and its effort to diver a portion of the Kiamichi River ...

Frank Lautenberg: New Jersey and the Senate Lose a Leader

by Rena Steinzor | June 18, 2013
Later in this space, we plan to discuss the many and varied failings of a proposal in the Senate to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. Unfortunately, the proposal is the joint work product of conservative Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and liberal Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who died two weeks ago and therefore won’t have the chance to fix the legislation that is so unworthy of his name. But before we take on that misguided proposal, we wanted to pay ...

CPR Scholar Sandi Zellmer: Senate Passes Wrong-Headed “States’ Water Rights Act” WRDA Amendment to Facilitate N.D. Fracking

by Sandra Zellmer | June 14, 2013
The 2013 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), as adopted by the Senate on May 13, S.601, would authorize $12 billion in federal spending on flood protection, dam and levee projects, and port improvements.  A new version of WRDA is passed every few years, and it is the primary vehicle for authorizing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ water projects and for implementing changes with respect to the Corps’ water resource policies. S.601 contains several notable provisions, not the least of which ...

Some Observations from the Howard Shelanski Confirmation Hearing

by James Goodwin | June 13, 2013
Yesterday's confirmation hearing for Dr. Howard Shelanski—President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as the next “Regulatory Czar,” or Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—may have been the “most important hearing in Washington this week,” but it did not produce much in the way of bombshells or drama.  Rather, it was a relatively staid affair, which at times had a distinct “going through the motions” vibe. On the positive side, the hearing generated some good ...

The Obama Administration’s Plan B for Plan B: Compliance, or Defiance?

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 11, 2013
The Obama Administration’s announcement that it will comply with a district court’s order that it make emergency contraceptives available to all women and girls without a prescription comes as a welcome development in a long-running administrative-law fiasco. But the Administration’s specific suggestions as to how it will set things right, set forth in letters sent yesterday to the district court and to the citizen petitioners who originally asked for nonprescription access to emergency contraceptives, are inadequate in several respects. First, under ...

EPA’s Formaldehyde Rule: The Mystery of the Shrinking Benefits

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 11, 2013
Why does the White House take so long to review rules from the regulatory agencies?  As I have documented elsewhere, many rules have been stuck at the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for years.  Some of these remain there to this day.  What is the White House doing for the months and years that rules are stuck there? One rule that just escaped from the clutches of regulatory review might provide a clue.  Just yesterday, EPA ...

What We Will Be Listening for at the Howard Shelanski Confirmation Hearing

by Sidney Shapiro | June 11, 2013
The confirmation hearing for Howard Shelanski, President Obama’s pick to serve as the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is set to take place Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.  If confirmed, Shelanski would become the Administration’s new “Regulatory Czar,” a description that indicates the significant influence OIRA’s administrator has concerning what agency rules look like and, indeed, whether those rules are issued at all. Shelanski’s confirmation hearing comes at ...

CPR Scholar Frank Ackerman on Secret Climate Cost Calculations: the Sequel

by Frank Ackerman | June 10, 2013
Three years later, it was time for a new episode.  Back in 2010, Congress listened to some climate-denial rants, counted votes, and decided to do absolutely nothing about climate change; this year on Capitol Hill, the magic continues. Also in 2010, the Obama administration released an estimate of “the social cost of carbon”` (SCC) – that is, the value of the damages done by emission of one more ton of carbon dioxide. Calculated by an anonymous task force that held ...

Robert Verchick Reacts to Congressional Letter on OIRA Delays

by Robert Verchick | June 06, 2013
Late Tuesday afternoon, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell urging her to take "prompt action" to implement rules and regulations held up at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The letter notes that under Executive Order 12866, OIRA reviews of agency draft rules must be completed ...

Talking Through Their Hats: The Opposition to President Obama’s D.C. Circuit Court Nominees

by Sidney Shapiro | June 05, 2013
In the old television series, "Cheers," barfly and braggart Cliff Clavin was a guy who was forever "talking through his hat," offering up an endless supply of ridiculous factoids and explanations. Cliff made for good television, but the same cannot be said for the Senate Republicans who seem to be borrowing his approach. That's what's at work with the Republican effort to block President Obama’s nomination of three distinguished lawyers to fill longstanding vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of ...
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