The White House has released a new executive order directing federal agencies to identify and reduce "regulatory burdens" in their respective organizations, noting the "challenging economic times" the US is traversing.
President Barack Obama's executive order, "Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens", builds upon an existing order by the president ordering agencies to periodically review existing significant regulations and find efficiencies within them.
Obama's statement notes "agencies have developed and made available for public comment retrospective review plans that identify over five hundred initiatives," and those refined regulations are expects to save "billions of dollars in regulatory costs and tens of millions of hours in annual paperwork burdens."
The new executive order directs agencies to regularly involve regulatory experts and members of the public in their reviews of regulations, prioritize their reviews of regulations so larger and more onerous rules are reviewed first, and regularly report on their progress and anticipated accomplishments to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
While the policy is likely to garner support from some industrial circles, at least one regulatory commentator called the policy "window dressing" and an attempt to "obscure the fact that the process announced here is explicitly tilted in a one-way direction toward deregulation."
"[T]he order explicitly says that agencies are to prioritize 'those initiatives that will produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens,'" wrote Rena Steinzor of the group The Center for Progressive Reform. "The White House is saying agencies should take all the public comment - but prioritize the de-regulation ideas."
Steinzor also noted while the regulatory policy ostensibly would involve participation from "the public," this demographic is far more likely to include knowledgeable members of the regulated industry to the detriment of consumers.
Further, while agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have been tasked to review existing regulations, they have not been given additional funding to conduct the reviews and must therefore reallocate staff time and resources to conduct them.
"This is nonsense," explained Steinzor. "A check of the latest regulatory agendas shows agencies are behind on countless important rules to protect the public's health and safety."
Regulatory Focus has reported on several of these delays, including a Unique Device Identifier (UDI) rule passed by FDA but languishing at the Office of Management and Budget. Other rules include FDA's long-await Dental Amalgam rule, which Center for Devices and Radiological Health Director Jeffery Shuren said would be released no later than December 2011.
Executive Order - Executive Order -- Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens
Center for Progressive Reform - New Executive Order Skewed Toward Placating Regulated Industries: Obama Administration Continues Retreat from Protection of Public Health, Worker and Consumer Safety, and the Environment