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Nov. 19, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

Sunstein Watch: OMB Says it Will Leave EDSP to the EPA Experts

On Monday, OMB Director Peter Orszag sent a letter to Rep. Ed Markey, responding to Congressman Markey’s concerns about OMB’s involvement in EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. Orszag’s letter -- released by Markey's office Wednesday -- explains, in no uncertain terms, that OMB is done meddling in EPA’s scientific determinations about endocrine-disrupting chemicals. It’s a step in the right direction for Orszag and OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein, who have their work cut out for them if they are going to -- I hope -- work to halt OMB’s historical penchant for interfering in EPA’s work.

Congressman Markey’s concerns about OMB involvement in the EDSP were stoked by the same events that prompted the letter that CPR Board Member Robert Glicksman and I sent to Mr. Sunstein and his colleague Dr. John Holdren of the OSTP. We saw a trail of documents suggesting that OMB was pressuring EPA to revise the procedures through which it would allow pesticide manufacturers to avoid EPA orders to test their products for potential endocrine-disrupting effects. (See CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz’s October 20 post for details.)

In his letter to Rep. Markey, Mr. Orszag wisely avoided delving into the …

Nov. 11, 2009 by James Goodwin
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When the Electric Power Research Institute (ERPI)—the research arm of the U.S. power industry—met with OIRA last month to discuss the various “beneficial uses” of spent coal ash from power plants, their timing was impeccable.  Or so it would seem.  On the day of the meeting, October 16, EPA submitted for OIRA review its pre-rule proposals regarding the regulation of coal ash disposal under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  In reality, the meeting demonstrates how eager regulated industries are to air their complaints to OIRA on rules they dislike, or in this case, expect to dislike.  The industry’s lobbyists earned their paycheck this time around, getting in to see their traditional champions at OIRA to lay the groundwork for protesting a rule that has not yet even reached the notice-and-comment stage of rulemaking.

Coal ash comprises all the solid waste that …

Nov. 5, 2009 by Amy Sinden
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Cass Sunstein had barely begun settling in to his new position as Administrator of OMB’s Office of Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in September, when OIRA released a draft of OMB’s 2009 Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations. Today marks the deadline for submitting comments to OMB on the draft, and I joined CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst James Goodwin in submitting comments.

We read this year’s report with interest, curious to see how the new administration would approach this annual ritual. While OIRA has in the past been a nerve-center of anti-regulatory ideology and the annual report a ritualized hymn to the virtues of cost-benefit analysis, we hoped Obama’s OIRA would use the annual report as an opportunity to fundamentally re-envision its mission – to perhaps re-invent itself as a resource providing positive and constructive assistance to the …

Oct. 22, 2009 by Ben Somberg
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CPR President Rena Steinzor and board member Robert Glicksman sent a letter today to White House Science Adviser John Holdren and OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein regarding OMB's role in EPA science decisions. The letter concerns two recent episodes involving OMB that we wrote about this week: one regarding the EPA's Endocrine Disrputor Screening Program (EDSP) and the other regarding the agency's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). From the letter:

Both of these episodes pre-date Professor Sunstein’s confirmation and may well be the product of staff steeped in the culture of OMB regulatory review under the Bush Administration. The episodes represent a direct assault on scientific integrity because they involve attempts to reverse conclusions by agency experts at the behest of regulated industries whose central objections were rooted in concerns about potential future compliance costs, not the accuracy of EPA’s science. Compounding the offensiveness of this …

Oct. 21, 2009 by Christine Klein
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As the recession grinds on, financial news continues to grab front-page headlines. The national deficit is a central flashpoint for controversy, triggering debate on the appropriate balance between spending today and increasing our children’s growing mountain of debt. In the midst of this battle, it is easy to overlook another looming problem: the growth of the environmental deficit. Overall, we are spending down the planet’s “natural capital” at unsustainable rates. As the nation’s most thoughtful minds address our economic woes, their wisdom provides three important lessons for environmental sustainability. The moment is particularly ripe for such analysis as the international community struggles with the overwhelming issue of climate change, certainly a key to achieving any sort of sustainable environmental future.

Re-regulation to promote responsibility: Even as taxpayers bailed out financial institutions deemed too big to fail, executives received huge bonuses. Growing outrage has prompted …

Oct. 20, 2009 by Matt Shudtz
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Greenwire and the Los Angeles Times ran pieces last week shining a light into a dark corner where staff at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs once again meddled in scientific regulatory programs where they do not belong, second-guessing EPA’s administration of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). The program, mandated by Congress under the Food Quality Protection Act, is designed to identify pesticides like DDT that cause profound changes in wildlife and, potentially, people, through the ubiquitous application of pesticides. Both articles highlighted the key problem, which is that the OMB-promoted changes to the EDSP would undercut EPA’s attempt to get a full suite of new test data on 67 chemicals’ potential endocrine-disrupting effects. But there's an additional important issue: OMB’s meddling, under the auspices of its power to enforce the Paperwork Reduction Act, shifted a heavy burden from industry’s shoulders …

Oct. 19, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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Before Cass Sunstein had spent much more than a week as the official director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), he invited us over to the White House to talk about how he wanted to shape his small office of economists and statisticians into a strong force for progressive policy within the White House. Followers of the Center for Progressive Reform know that we put out a report in the run-up to his confirmation that was critical of his views on cost-benefit analysis. So I give him credit for opening the door to us, and so soon after his confirmation at that.

It was a good meeting, and we pledged to keep in touch as he undertakes what I hope will be a re-education that will convert his staff from the Bush mode – serving as a sort of waiting room for disgruntled industries – to …

Sept. 10, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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After weeks of sustained attack from the right-wing on issues that are marginal to the job the President asked him to do, Cass Sunstein has emerged from the nomination process bloody but apparently unbowed (here's this afternoon's roll call). He is now the nation’s “regulatory czar,” Director of the White House OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  Although Professor Sunstein has been sitting in the Old Executive Office Building for months, he has undoubtedly been preoccupied with his nomination battle. Having survived the occasionally nonsensical trial by partisan and self-serving flight of fancy that was his confirmations process, we hope he will notice that his staff at OIRA has been behaving as if the 2008 election never happened. Having paid careful attention to OIRA over these past few months, in search of evidence of a new outlook, I’m sorry to report that I’ve …

Sept. 9, 2009 by Ben Somberg
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Late this afternoon the Senate ended debate, in a 63-35 cloture vote, on the nomination of Cass Sunstein for Administrator of the Office of Information and Reuglatory Affairs (OIRA). Here's a quick look back at what CPR scholars have said about the Sunstein nomination and the role of OIRA in regulatory policy:

Aug. 14, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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By now, followers of the controversy over the appointment of Cass Sunstein to serve as Obama Administration “regulatory czar” can do little but shake their heads in astonishment. The controversy over the Harvard professor’s nomination to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has taken on a picaresque quality, as one bizarre delay follows another. The latest development in the Sunstein saga is reportedly the placement of another, as-yet unidentified senatorial hold on the nomination, perhaps at the behest of cattle rancher and National Rifle Association interests, with Majority Leader Harry Reid promising to take steps in September to release the nominee from limbo.

Meanwhile, as I have noted before in this space, like other nominees with delayed confirmations, Sunstein appears to be in firm control of his 50-odd person staff at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) where he has worked in …

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