Cass Sunstein Is Still Pushing Regulatory Reform — Why Isn’t Everyone Happy?

Yesterday, President Obama released another Executive Order on regulatory reform. The new order expands on EO 13563, and provides three new requirements on agencies:

  • Twice yearly reporting by agencies to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs concerning the status of reform efforts,
  • Increased public participation in regulatory reform, and
  • An obligation to prioritize agency reform efforts to “produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens while protecting public health”

Reactions were predictable.  According to the Daily Environment Report, Celia Wexler of the Union of Concerned Scientists decried “the latest in a series of actions by the Obama administration that reinforce the idea that environmental and public health protections are overly burdensome.” Is there any doubt that advocacy group members live in a different universe than the rest of us? Has Ms. Wexler missed the CSAPR, the mercury rule, the boiler rule, and the GHG rule?

On the other side of the aisle, as it were, Republicans in Congress complained that the EO “does little to address the job-killing regulatory costs his Administration has imposed in the last three years.”   As I have noted previously, critics of regulation sometimes talk a good game about the need for cost-benefit analysis, but they seem to spend all their time talking about the costs of regulation, and no time talking about its benefits.

(Except for Mitt Romney, of course, who spoke only of the benefits of regulation when he was Governor of my great state, but now speaks only of their costs.)

It was probably not coincidence, by the way, that on the same date that the administration released the new EO, EPA released a final rule – developed pursuant to the earlier regulatory reform efforts – waiving the requirement for states to implement Stage II vapor recovery systems at gasoline stations. The rule is estimated to save up to $90 million per year. As Sunstein said,

rules are placed on the books for good reason, but as they accumulate over time, the reason they were adopted in the first place vanishes.

That’s not true of all rules, but it was true of the Stage II vapor recovery rule, and it’s undoubtedly true of other rules as well. Keep looking, EPA.

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