Selected tags: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

Maybe not surprising, but still upsetting: New report highlights role of election-year politics in OIRA delays

Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant.

Earlier this month, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) completed an investigation into the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) long delays in reviewing proposed and final rules and to offer recommendations for improving the efficiency and transparency of OIRA’s review process. The final report – which was featured in a front page story in the Washington Post – echoes and expands upon concerns we discussed in a previous blog post and a joint letter sent to Senator Blumenthal’s office earlier this year.

ACUS documents that the average time for OIRA reviews has significantly increased in recent years. From 1994-2011, the average review time was 50 days. However, in 2012, the average review time rose to 79 days. And in the first part of 2013, the average review time rose further to 140 days

The reason for these growing delays?  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

Waiting for Godot: 405 days and counting at OMB on EPA’s modest proposal to identify chemicals of concern under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Yesterday, three legal scholars from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) sent a letter to Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  That letter rebutted on legal grounds the call made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its own letter to Mr. Sunstein for OMB to force EPA to withdraw its proposal to use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to list chemicals of concern.

EPA’s proposal, which entails use of its clear authority under Section 5(b)(4) of TSCA, has been stalled at OIRA for 405 days as of today, with OIRA refusing even to allow the proposal out for public comment.  I wrote an extensive blog post earlier about all of the reasons why EPA’s proposal is legally sound and makes good market sense.  That post – titled “Why is OMB blocking EPA from using even its limited authority under TSCA?” – went up way back in December, and there’s been no movement on the proposal since then.

CPR’s letter rebuts the Chamber’s claims, noting that it plain and simply “Gets the Law Wrong.”  EDF, too, has developed a legal analysis of EPA’s authority under TSCA to identify and list chemicals of concern, which is fully consistent with CPR’s analysis but goes further to address a few other legal aspects of the issue.  That’s why I’ve decided to post it here.

I’ll leave you to read our memo for the details, but provide its conclusion here as a teaser:

“EPA has clear authority under Section 5(b)(4) to list chemicals of concern and is not required to establish criteria in advance of the issuance of a proposed rule listing specific chemicals.  EPA’s authority also extends to the listing of categories of chemicals.  The legal threshold for action under Section 5(b)(4) should be interpreted as identical to that in Section 4(a), which requires only a “more than theoretical” basis for concluding that a chemical “may present” an unreasonable risk.  Even if Section 5(b)(4) is interpreted to mean something different from that in Section 4(a), it should be interpreted to be far less restrictive than the standard in Section 6.  In addition, Section 5(b)(4) does not require consideration of economic impact in the decision to list a chemical.  Finally, the statute is clear that listing of a chemical in a proposed rule under Section 5(b)(4) triggers export notification under Section 12, and may require the issuance of a SNUR [Significant New Use Rule] with respect to significant new uses of the chemical.”

It’s a sad state of affairs when even this modest step proposed by EPA to use its clear authority under TSCA is not even being allowed by OMB to see the light of day and benefit from public review and comment.

Samuel Beckett’s play, which I borrowed for the title of this post, is described as an absurdist play.  That pretty much sums up the endless review by OMB of EPA’s modest proposal.

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , | Comments closed

A modest proposal: ACC should support and defend President’s proposed budget increase for EPA chemical safety efforts

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

President Obama unveiled his FY2012 budget yesterday, and the news was rather bleak for EPA:  a proposed 13% decrease.  But one bright spot was a proposed $16.1 million boost in funding for EPA’s chemicals management efforts using its current limited authorities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

That additional funding, according to EPA, is to be directed at activities to further “reduce chemical risks, increase the pace of chemical hazard assessments, and provide the public with greater access to chemical information so they can make better informed decisions about their health.  Learning more about these chemicals will help protect Americans from potential threats to their health.”

What is perhaps most refreshing is EPA’s rationale for its proposal to maintain and enhance its renewed focus on chemical safety (see pages 55-56 of this EPA budget summary):

Chemicals are often released into the environment as a result of their manufacture, processing, use, and disposal. Research shows that children are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before they even are given solid food. Other vulnerable groups, including low-income, minority, and indigenous populations, may also be disproportionately impacted by and thus particularly at risk from chemical exposure.

So, what would the money go to, and how will the chemical industry respond?  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Why is OMB blocking EPA from using even its limited authority under TSCA?

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

On May 12 of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for its review, which is supposed to be completed within 90 days.  The proposed rule is not considered a major rule, is classified as “not economically significant,” imposes no unfunded mandates and is unequivocally allowed under EPA’s statutory authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The proposed rule would establish a so-called “chemicals of concern” list and populate it with one chemical and two chemical categories.  All of these chemicals are well-studied, already widely identified to be chemicals of significant concern and subject to numerous regulations by governmental bodies both in the U.S. and abroad.

Yet, as of today – more than seven months after receiving the draft of the proposed rule from EPA – OMB has not allowed EPA to release it for public notice and comment.

In 1976, when passing TSCA, Congress gave EPA the express authority to establish and populate a “chemicals of concern” list.  There’s simply no excuse for OMB’s delay.  Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed
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