OMB Regulation Reviews at Standstill

OMB Watch, the watchdog group that monitors federal rulemaking, says that the Office of Managment and Budget's regulatory review process has slowed to a near halt under President Bush.

OMB Watch, the watchdog group that monitors federal rulemaking, reviewed the number of regulatory submissions by agencies and actions taken by the White House Office of Management and Budget''s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) during the month of January.

Their results show that under President Bush, the regulatory review process has slowed to a near halt, and that agencies have withdrawn many of the proposed and final rules that were pending at OIRA.

OIRA reviews all major proposed and final rules to determine whether an agency proposal is consistent with administration policies and priorities.

OMB Watch said that from Jan. 2 to Jan. 19, under the Clinton Administration, agencies submitted 50 regulatory proposals for OIRA to review. From Jan. 20 to Feb. 5, there were a total of 12 submitted.

The largest number of Clinton submissions came from EPA. In the first weeks of January, EPA submitted 10 regulatory proposals; in the last weeks of January, EPA submitted one rule for review.

Between Jan. 2 to Jan. 19, OIRA reviewed and approved 88 proposed and final rules, some of which had been pending for some time.

OMB Watch noted that by comparison, OIRA reviews roughly 500 rules per year or about 42 per month, meaning OIRA doubled the number in half as much time.

From the time the Bush Administration began, Jan. 20, to Feb. 5, OIRA reviewed and approved only seven proposed and final rules, a significant drop in work load, noted OMB Watch.

The group said what is most striking is that between Jan. 20 and Feb. 5, 47 rules were withdrawn from OIRA review. One of those rules was a final rule from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on verification of underground coal mine operators'' dust control plans.

Bush signed an order on Jan. 20, instructing agency heads to withdraw from the Office of Federal Register, rules that had been approved but were not yet printed, and to postpone 60 days the effective dates of new rules that have not yet taken effect.

The order raises questions about how OSHA''s newly-published recordkeeping, needlestick and steel erection rules as well as an MSHA rule protecting underground miners from diesel exhaust particulate matter will be effected by the order. These regulations were released in the final days of the Clinton Administration.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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