A Worthy Effort that Falls Short
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Today, the Obama administration released version 2.0 of its regulatory review which looks back at existing regulations to determine which regulations it can streamline or eliminate. The administration’s findings and determinations, on their own, are a worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process, but the results of this lookback will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing businesses today.
The administration’s changes fall into the categories of eliminating duplicative regulations, the better use of electronic government (E-Gov), and the harmonization of classifications between the U.S. and other nations of standardized terms.
The Chamber supports this effort by the administration. We also applaud the administration for taking the step that Congress first directed in 1980, that federal agencies, including independent agencies, undertake these regulatory lookbacks.
In the lookback, the administration talks about clarifying issues between agencies, so people have more regulatory certainty. An example is the use of a safe harbor from conflicting EPA/USDA regulations for farmers who improve water quality. It is always worthwhile to protect citizens from conflicting federal regulations, but EPA is issuing Water Guidance that literally expands its jurisdiction from interstate waterways to almost any body of water in the United States. While the Chamber applauds the technical changes for clarifying the water quality, the Agency has already dramatically expanded its control over the waters in the U.S.
The bottom line is that real regulatory reform would include permit streamlining; requiring transparency in the permitting process so we know exactly which permits are being held up and why; requiring agencies to differentiate between major and minor rules with the agency providing far more factual support for major rules; and finally by mandating that federal agencies apply all the laws Congress passed relating to regulatory reform, including data quality, regulatory flexibility and unfunded mandates. This would ensure that agencies not only do regulatory lookbacks, but also that they use the best information available in developing regulations; that agencies identify regulatory alternatives and select the least costly alternative that achieves congressional goals; and finally that permits are issued in an expeditious way so the U.S. can begin building again and creating jobs.