EPA tops list of pending regulations under review

The week President Obama announced his controversial governmentwide search for outdated or inefficient regulations, the White House online dashboard that tracks pending regulations under review showed that the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for the lion's share.

Of the 130 final or proposed rules the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is vetting to determine costs, benefits and alternatives, 34 come from EPA, followed by 20 at Health and Human Services, and 10 at the Labor Department, according to the OIRA site. Fourteen of the 130 are deemed to have "economic significance," meaning they likely would cost industry or other parties $100 million or more per year.

The Office of Management and Budget website highlighted the dashboard alongside documents for Obama's regulatory initiative released Jan. 18. OIRA and the General Services Administration update the dashboard daily.

Though the numbers of regulations under review appear routinely, they take on new significance as debate unfolds over Obama's response to industry's concerns that the current regulatory environment has impeded job creation.

Rosario Palmieri, vice president for regulatory policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said the administration now must decide what the new executive order means for proposed regulations in the pipeline. "Are some no longer consistent with that order, and should the agencies go back and provide additional backup data?" he said.

Overall, the association was "pleased with the message and direction" of Obama's order and "welcomes this new attention to the cost of regulations to business and their impact on job creation," Palmieri said. But the business group remains only "cautiously optimistic" about ultimate results of the review. "EPA usually has the largest numbers of economically significant reviews because it tends to produce the most extreme and costly rules that place an overwhelming burden on manufacturers," he said.

The day after Obama unveiled the new approach to regulating in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it was pulling back from implementing a rule to reduce workplace noise, citing concerns raised during the public comment period and in talks with Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

"Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for occupational safety and health. "However, it is clear from the concerns raised about this proposal that addressing this problem requires much more public outreach and many more resources than we had originally anticipated. We are sensitive to the possible costs associated with improving worker protection and have decided to suspend work on this proposed modification while we study other approaches to abating workplace noise hazards."

Matthew Madia, a federal regulatory policy analyst for the advocacy group OMB Watch, said: "The statistics have proved and continue to prove that OMB is too transactional. They are reviewing more than 100 rules at a time, some of which have been in OMB's grasp for six months or more. We wanted President Obama to change the way OMB functions by making it more of a facilitator and less of a gatekeeper. Instead, the president gave us baseless claims about regulations' impacts on jobs."

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