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President-elect Trump has promised to eliminate EPA, which was created during the administration of Republican Richard Nixon.
A federal office few people know about may be our best barometer of the changes President Donald J. Trump will bring to OSHA, EPA, DOT, and other executive agencies whose regulations and enforcement affect millions of U.S. companies and the work done by thousands of safety and environmental professionals who read our magazine. Experience tells us that Republican presidents' appointees tend to favor compliance assistance and reduced rulemaking and enforcement activity, while Democratic presidents and their appointees lean the other way. But our new president has broken the mold in his campaign and his election, so, at this writing, it's hard to predict how he'll proceed, or how quickly, once he takes office.
He has promised to eliminate EPA, which was created in 1970 during the administration of Republican Richard Nixon. At this writing, a few names are being discussed as potential secretaries of Labor for the new administration, but I have not seen any suggestions for a new OSHA leader.
He's also pledged to reverse some of the most recent regulations enacted by President Obama's appointees—with Congress' help, he could undo the OSHA injury and illness reporting rule that will require some employers to report their data electronically starting on Jan. 1, 2017, for example.
There is a website, www.reginfo.gov, that tracks rules under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Cass R. Sunstein, who headed OIRA during part of Obama's presidency, says the site is a handy way to check whether President Trump slows down the federal bureaucracy as he promised to do.
There were 159 regulations pending before OIRA as of Nov. 22, 2016—an "unusually high" number, Sunstein wrote in a column for Bloomberg that day. He pointed out that, while the new president may not be able to disband an existing agency or department entirely, his administration "could work to cut staff, if only by refusing to fill vacancies, and it could certainly work with Congress to reduce appropriations," he wrote. "Far more important, Trump could do a lot to reduce agency activity."
Rules under OIRA review as of Nov. 22 included an EPA final rule setting reporting and recordkeeping requirements for nanoscale materials and a proposed rule on procedures for evaluating existing chemical risks under the Toxic Substances Control Act. And OSHA's final rule to reduce the PEL for beryllium also was pending.
If the number of pending rules drops below 25, "we have something very close to a moratorium," Sunstein explained.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.