In connection with the nomination of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, I noted my hope that the Obama administration would be a Nixon in China moment for regulatory reform. Given the administration’s aggressive early steps to combat global warming and to roll back some of the more extreme moves by the Bush EPA, the new administration could, if it chooses, give regulatory reform back its good name.
So far, the signs are not encouraging. In February, EPA announced that it was deferring until May 18 the effective date of the NSR aggregation amendments that the Bush administration promulgated on their way out the door. Notwithstanding the midnight rulemaking feel to issuance of rules five days before inauguration of a new administration, the aggregation amendments seem to me to be little more than a common sense reform of an often mind-bogglingly complex set of regulations, i.e, the NSR/PSD rules. The aggregation amendments would have clarified EPA’s rules on aggregation of projects for NSR jurisdictional purposes so that only projects that are “substantially related” need be aggregated.
Unfortunately, the NRDC appears to be feeling its collective oats and, not surprisingly, EPA seems to listen the NRDC more than they listen to me. Last week, EPA announced that it was proposing to further defer implementation of the aggregation amendments, until November 18, 2009.
While EPA has not yet withdrawn the aggregation amendments, this latest move has to mean that they are on life support. I fear, to mix yet one more metaphor, that the baby of regulatory reform is rapidly going down the drain with the bathwater of the Bush administration.