Cass Sunstein, the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, unveiled the results of President Obama’s extensive regulatory review at AEI today, noting that 30 departments and agencies had come up with “action plans” to save time and money that also involved the “creation of teams and institutions” to make sure regulatory reform keeps moving.
In January, Obama ordered an executive review of regulations to identify outdated or excessively burdensome ones that could be ditched. The review was completed on May 18, and early today the White House announced the overhaul proposals.
Calling it a “historic day,” Sunstein expounded on his plans to the AEI audience, calling regulatory review “a corrective to a national debate over regulation that in recent years in part has become too polarized and stylized.”
Sunstein said that the reform proposals, which are now available for public review as they head to become final rules in roughly 80 days, “underline and italicize the words freedom of choice.”
He said that while the cost-benefit analysis needs to be weighed carefully in rulemaking, the administration had moved forward with “flexible, innovative approaches” in regulatory reform.
“We’ve launched initiatives that have helped drive highway deaths to their lowest levels in 60 years,” Sunstein said. “A lot of people are alive today” because of those efforts, he added.
He said that the rulemaking and reform process needed to be nonpartisan as “critical safeguards for public health and safety” are weighed and implemented. “Differences in values will lead to differences in conclusions even if the evidence is clear,” he said, adding that Obama’s executive order introduced a “fresher approach to regulation with state-of-the-art thinking.”
“We are taking immediate steps to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in regulatory burdens,” Sunstein said, with billions in savings promised in the future.
- A “paperless initiative” in the Treasury Department that is projected to save 12 million pounds of paper and $400 million.
- Freeing the dairy industry from EPA oil spill regulations — “Gives new meaning to the phrase ‘don’t cry over spilled milk,’” Sunstein said.
- An Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule finalized today that eliminates 1.9 million annual hours of “reporting burdens on employers,” with an estimated $40 million annual savings.
- Creating a system of hazard labels that conforms to “international harmonization.”
- Making sure federal regulatory code doesn’t refer to nations that no longer exist.
- Asking doctors and hospitals to help identify antiquated or burdensome Health and Human Services regulations that can be targeted for rollback.
“Many of the initiatives come not from Washington but directly from the American people,” Sunstein said, adding that the administration aims to “change the regulatory culture in Washington.”
“The change requires constant exploration of what is working and what isn’t,” he said.
Sunstein said that the regulatory review required they “not just look back, but look ahead.” He said the administration would encourage public participation in the process with “timely” online access to documents to scrutinize, an effort to “harmonize and simplify” rules in some sectors that may overlap, directing agencies to predict future benefits on costs related to rulemaking, and promoting compliance through simplification of bureaucratic red-tape.
“We can’t be solving serious problems in the abstract,” Sunstein said. “Polarized positions are just stuck.”