The Agencies Cutting the Most Regulations

In July, the Trump administration reported it had withdrawn 457 agency rules proposed by its predecessors. A new report shows that is the highest total of revoked regulations in any half-year period in more than 20 years.

A group critical of President Trump’s efforts to deregulate issued the report detailing exactly where those revocations occurred. The Interior Department has withdrawn the most rules, totaling 113. Since 2000, the department’s previous high total of pulling back proposed regulations in any half year period occurred in 2000, when it withdrew 95. About 40 of the rule withdrawals came from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs puts out a “unified agenda” twice annually to spell out all of the federal government’s proposed regulatory activity. The 457 rulemaking withdrawals in Trump’s first issued agenda was the most in any single report since at least 1995, according to Public Citizen. The previous high was in the 2002 spring agenda, when the George W. Bush administration withdrew 386 proposed regulations. In President Obama’s first unified agenda, his administration withdrew fewer than 150 rules. More than 80 percent of Trump’s recommended withdrawals were first proposed during the Obama administration.

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The Health and Human Services Department revoked 68 proposed rules, the second highest total of any agency in Trump’s first six months in office. The Food and Drug Administration withdrew 26 proposed regulations, the most of any component within HHS. The Environmental Protection Agency undid 20 rules in Trump’s first six months, while the Labor Department withdrew 26.

Neither Interior nor the Agriculture Department, which saw 61 rules withdrawn, nixed any rules considered “economically significant.”  Regulations are considered significant when they are expected to have an impact on the economy of $100 million or greater. Overall, 50 percent of the pending rules were economically significant, compared to 58 percent in Obama’s last unified agenda. About 38 percent of the withdrawn rules were considered significant, either for economic or other reasons.

Trump has signed multiple executive orders to reduce federal agencies’ regulatory authority; one requires agencies to slash or streamline two existing regulations for every new one they create, while another created task forces at each agency to identify rules for elimination. That process is taking place across government. Public Citizen and several other advocacy groups are currently suing the Trump administration for its one in, two out executive order, while Democrats have raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the agency task forces.

In addition to the 457 rulemaking withdrawals, the Trump administration “reconsidered” 391 rules by reclassifying them as long-term or inactive. Michael Tanglis, a senior researcher for Public Citizen, said Trump administration officials have insufficiently factored in the benefits of the regulations they have undone.

“Administration officials would have you believe that the rulemakings they terminated were of little importance to the public,” said Tanglis, the report's author. “But these rulemakings would have reduced workplace accidents, prevented fires and explosions, and protected the rights of same-gender couples. These outcomes matter, especially to Americans who needed these protections.”

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