Obama Looks to Accelerate Regulatory Reviews

The safety and health community watched and worried last year, for the most part, as the U.S. Labor Department advanced a risk management regulation that would have added time and new hurdles to future safety and health rulemakings. That proposal died as the Bush administration left office, and now, President Obama has initiated a review of how the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (part of the Office of Management and Budget) reviews proposed federal regulations. One goal, according to Obama's Jan. 30 memo, is eliminating undue delay, which has long been a frequently criticized trademark of OSHA rulemaking.

The memo was published in yesterday's Federal Register. It directs OMB Director Peter Orszag to produce recommendations for a new executive order on regulatory review within 100 days.

"I strongly believe that regulations are critical to protecting public health, safety, our shared resources, and our economic opportunities and security," it states. "While recognizing the expertise and authority of executive branch departments and agencies, I also believe that, if properly conducted, centralized review is both legitimate and appropriate as a means of promoting regulatory goals.

"The fundamental principles and structures governing contemporary regulatory review were set out in Executive Order 12866 of September 30, 1993. A great deal has been learned since that time. Far more is now known about regulation--not only about when it is justified, but also about what works and what does not. Far more is also known about the uses of a variety of regulatory tools such as warnings, disclosure requirements, public education, and economic incentives. Years of experience have also provided lessons about how to improve the process of regulatory review. In this time of fundamental transformation, that process -- and the principles governing regulation in general -- should be revisited."

"Among other things," it states, "the [OMB] recommendations should offer suggestions for the relationship between OIRA and the agencies; provide guidance on disclosure and transparency; encourage public participation in agency regulatory processes; offer suggestions on the role of cost-benefit analysis; address the role of distributional considerations, fairness, and concern for the interests of future generations; identify methods of ensuring that regulatory review does not produce undue delay; clarify the role of the behavioral sciences in formulating regulatory policy; and identify the best tools for achieving public goals through the regulatory process."

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