Monday, November 12, 2012

Obama Administration Sits on Key Regulations

The Obama administration roared into office four years ago with an openly ambitious regulatory agenda, releasing a higher-than-usual number of major regulations in the first two years. In 2012, the number of new regulations has plummeted in a year in which the president's regulatory policies have emerged as a major campaign theme. Federal agencies are sitting on a pile of major health, environmental, and financial regulations that lobbyists, congressional staffers, and former administration officials say are being held back to avoid providing ammunition to Mitt Romney and other Republican critics. Despite looming legislative deadlines in the Affordable Care Act, court deadlines requiring environmental-protection rules, and a financial industry awaiting clarification on key reform details, the pace of regulatory release has slowed by almost half. The drop-off stands out not just compared to earlier years of Obama's term but also compared to other years in which presidents are running for reelection, according to analyses from experts at George Mason and George Washington universities. The administration has also failed to release a required regulatory outlook document, describing its regulatory agenda. Such documents are supposed to be published every six months; the most recent one was published in January, making this the longest lag between outlooks since the deadline schedule was created in 1994. "They're ready to burst," said Susan Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University and a top official at the White House Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush administration. "Some people use the analogy of a closet door—you keep putting things in, and it's ready to burst."  As Obama’s reelection drew closer, his enthusiasm for regulating dimmed sharply. In the summer of 2011, EPA was expected to issue a long-awaited regulation curbing smog-causing ozone pollution from coal plants. But the rule concerned the White House political staff, because it would have directly affected coal plants in Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—all key swing states. White House officials reportedly told Jackson to delay the rule until after the election—a move, people close to the EPA said, that nearly led to the administrator’s resignation.  That was the beginning of the freeze. As 2011 drew to a close, EPA staffers continued to finalize major environmental rules—but not to submit them to OMB for review. Industry lobbyists and environmental lawyers estimate that the EPA is currently sitting on about a dozen new major regulations, completed, and ready to roll out the door, but on hold until after the election. Nearly all of them will have a significant impact on the coal and oil industry...more

No comments: