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April 20, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

Reacting to Cass Sunstein's Nomination

According to media accounts, President Obama today nominated Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein to be the director of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- the so-called "regulatory czar."  CPR President Rena Steinzor reacts to the news:

I welcome Cass Sunstein’s nomination to be the Obama Administration’s regulatory czar. His past support for cost-benefit analysis as a method of regulatory impact analysis – even as practiced by the Bush Administration – raises a host of questions about the direction in which he’ll lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The core issue: will Sunstein’s OIRA allow cost-benefit to continue to be a stumbling block for much-needed regulatory protections for health, safety and the environment? Will OIRA be a place where needed regulations get watered down and bottled up? Or, as I hope, will Professor Sunstein put his years of study of the issue and his prodigious intellect to the all-important task of repairing the tattered framework of the nation’s regulations?

What with poisoned peanuts, lead-laden paint on children’s toys, a variety of toxics in our air and water, and more, we have no shortage of evidence that we need to once again get serious …

March 26, 2009 by James Goodwin
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More than 100 groups and individuals have accepted the invitation from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comment on the new Executive Order on Regulatory Review that the Obama Administration is currently considering.  The extended submission deadline is March 31.  So far, the comments reflect a strikingly wide dividing line between regulatory opponents, on the one side, and individuals and groups committed to protecting the public’s interest in health, safety, and environmental sustainability, on the other.

On the side of regulatory opponents, many conservative scholars (e.g., W. Kip Viscusi and Matthew D. Adler), free market think tanks and advocacy groups (e.g., Center for Regulatory Effectiveness and the Heritage Foundation), and various trade associations (e.g., American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, and American Trucking Association) have submitted comments pressing their support for the current institution of centralized regulatory review—overseen by the …

March 17, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) invited public comments on the design of its new Executive Order on regulatory review, and CPR has now submitted our recommendations.

We urged the Obama Administration to make fundamental changes in how OMB and prospective “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein operate. We're hopeful that the new Administration will convert OMB from a regulatory Siberia into the guarantor of dramatically improved government protection of public health, safety, and the environment.

If we have learned anything from the financial meltdown paralyzing the world’s economy, it is that large industries should never be placed in the position of making money, controlling their own greed, and adopting ethics to protect the public interest all at the same time. Because the government cop was off the beat on too many fronts, strange new “derivatives,” toxic mortgage loans, hedge funds, and Ponzi schemes brought multi-billion multinationals …

Feb. 27, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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Late last week, I sent a letter to Peter Orszag, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget that, among other things, called on OMB to allow for public participation in the design of its new Executive Order governing federal regulatory review. I’m happy to see that OMB has decided to do just that, with its announcement in Thursday’s Federal Register that it would “invite public comments on how to improve the process and principles governing regulation.”

As OMB observes, the White House has no obligation to seek public comment on executive orders. The Federal Register notice says:

Executive Orders are not subject to notice and comment procedures, and as a general rule, public comment is not formally sought before they are issued. In this case, however, there has been an unusually high level of public interest, and because of the evident importance …

Feb. 20, 2009 by James Goodwin
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In recent weeks, an unusual convergence of events has served to elevate somewhat the public profile of cost-benefit analysis (CBA).  Before then, CBA was an obscure and highly complex tool of policy analysis—the kind of thing that hardcore policy wonks would wonk about when the subjects of their usual policy wonkery weren’t wonkish enough.  Foreseeable future events suggest that the public profile of CBA will continue to rise.

The process began in early January when word emerged from the Obama transition team that the then-President-Elect planned to name Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).  A little known but powerful bureau in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), OIRA supervises the entire federal regulatory apparatus, imposing its will by individually reviewing all major federal regulations through the lens of CBA.  OIRA’s use of CBA …

Feb. 10, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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We’ve written a great deal about Cass Sunstein, the Harvard law professor who is expected to get the nod to be the “regulatory czar” for the Obama Administration.   In a nutshell, our concern is that Sunstein will stifle the efforts of health, safety, and environmental protection agencies to struggle to their feet after eight long years of evisceration by the Bush Administration’s regulatory czars, John Graham, and his protégé, Susan Dudley.

But, we got to thinking, just because the 30-year tradition of regulatory czars is to kill regulations, leaving people to fend for themselves in the “free” market, should not mean that regulation-killing is the only thing in the job description.   What if “regulatory czar” was the person ultimately responsible for making sure the Executive Branch produces good and needed regulations, cracking the whip to make sure we had rules to make sure kids don …

Feb. 4, 2009 by James Goodwin
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Observers concerned with the current dysfunctional state of the U.S. regulatory system will be letting out a collective sigh of relief following the publication of Executive Order 13497.  Among other things, this Order officially revokes the controversial Executive Order 13422, issued during George W. Bush Administration.

Issued in 2007, Executive Order 13422 amended President Clinton’s September 1993 Executive Order 12866, which established an institutional framework for centralized regulatory review.  Generally speaking, under this framework, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—an obscure but influential bureau in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—is authorized to review all major federal regulations and to do so through the lens of cost-benefit analysis.

Since its original publication, Executive Order 13422 has been criticized by many environmental, public health, and safety advocates, CPR Member Scholars among them, for creating an unnecessary barrier to the …

Feb. 2, 2009 by Sidney Shapiro
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On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum that I’m hopeful will be the start of undoing much of the excessive secrecy practiced by the previous administration. The memorandum, established that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) “should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

A recent CPR report, By the Stroke of the Pen: Seven Executive Orders to Launch the Obama Agenda, had recommended that President Obama take this exact step. The report also recommends additional actions that would undo other policies adopted by the Bush administration that made government less transparent. Another Presidential Memorandum, Transparency and Open Government, sets the stage for additional steps to be taken, although it does not commit the administration to adopt any specific policies to foster more transparency.

While Congress created exemptions to FOIA disclosure, it also for the most part …

Jan. 26, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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This morning, the Center for Progressive Reform published a report on some of the issues that will confront President Obama’s “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein, if, as seems likely, he is nominated and confirmed to be the director of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

I’ve blogged on this before, and our report, Reinvigorating Protection of Health, Safety, and the Environment: The Choices Facing Cass Sunstein, speaks for itself, so I won’t go on too long here. The report fleshes out a number of significant differences that we have with the regulatory methods and outcomes Professor Sunstein has embraced – his approach to cost-benefit analysis first and foremost. We believe OIRA’s 25-year record of applying cost-benefit amply demonstrates that it is an inherently flawed method of evaluating proposed regulations. Time and again, benefits (to the public) are understated and costs (to industry) are …

Jan. 9, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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Thursday’s big news on the regulatory front was that President-elect Obama plans to nominate Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein to be the head of the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – the so-called “regulatory czar” of the federal government. The appointment means that those of us expecting a revival of the protector agencies—EPA, FDA, OSHA, CPSC, and NHTSA—have reason to worry that “yes, we can” will become “no, we won’t.”

The reason for the pre-Russian Revolution appellation is that over the past quarter century, OIRA has become a choke point for federal regulation. Since Ronald Reagan, regulations with any significant impact have had to pass through OIRA’s doors, and while there, many a protective regulation has come to grief. During the Bush years, now a mere 11 days away from ending, OIRA ably accomplished …

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