Few Agencies Willing to Reveal Regulatory Officer, Task Forces

By Madi Alexander and Cheryl Bolen

Federal agencies are revealing mixed results when it comes to complying with President Donald Trump’s executive order to enforce his regulatory agenda, with several agencies declining to identify their officers by the April 25 deadline.

Just five agencies of the top 10 that issue the most major regulations responded to emails sent by Bloomberg BNA requesting the names of their regulatory reform officers (RROs) and members of their Regulatory Reform Task Forces. Of the five, just two provided names.

The departments of Transportation, Labor, Agriculture, Energy and the Treasury didn’t respond to repeated requests. The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged receipt of the request but did not provide names or comment.

“This is the kind of thing where it’s quite likely that the president’s appointees really need to be in place in order to make this happen,” said Jerry Ellig, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Agencies With Appointees Ahead

Under Executive Order 13,777 signed on Feb. 24, executive branch departments and agencies were given until April 25 to appoint a regulatory officer and members of a task force.

In another 30 days, or by May 25, the task forces are required to submit reports to their agency head identifying regulations for repeal, replacement or modification.

Even if the career staff are not dragging their feet, there is a natural tendency to want to wait for political appointees to come in, to avoid starting down one path and then having to change course, Ellig said.

“I’m willing to bet that the agencies that actually have a bunch of confirmed political appointees would probably be further ahead than some of the other agencies,” he said.

Taking Regulation Seriously

Once designated, the RRO is responsible for overseeing the implementation of initiatives and policies to ensure that agencies effectively carry out the regulatory changes ordered by Trump’s administration, the order said.

Regulatory reform task forces should be comprised of the RRO, a representative from the agency’s central policy office or equivalent central office, and in most cases at least three additional senior agency officials, as determined by the agency head.

Each task force is charged with evaluating the agency’s existing stock of regulations and making recommendations to the agency head about repeal, replacement or modification. Specifically, the task forces should identify regulations that, among other criteria, eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation, are outdated, unnecessary or ineffective, or impose costs that exceed benefits.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is something that the political appointees in the agencies will take very seriously,” Ellig said.

FOIA Requests Pending

Starting April 3, Bloomberg BNA submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act to each of 15 regulatory agencies requesting information about the selection process for their regulatory officers and task force members.

Just one response, from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was received as of April 24, pointing to a March 30 speech by acting CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo.

In the speech, Giancarlo announced that he had designated his chief of staff, Mike Gill, as the commission’s RRO.

“Pursuant to the president’s order, we will review all CFTC rules in our quest to reduce regulatory burdens and costs for participants in the markets we oversee,” Giancarlo said in his prepared remarks. Trump announced his intention to nominate Giancarlo as chairman of the commission on March 14.

EPA Ahead of the Curve

In response to emails sent by Bloomberg BNA, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a copy of a March 24 memorandum by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to top staff, designating Samantha Dravis, senior counsel and associate administrator for policy, to serve as RRO.

For the task force, Pruitt tapped Ryan Jackson, chief of staff, to serve as chairman. As a first step, Pruitt asked for recommendations by May 15 from several EPA offices regarding specific rules for repeal or modification.

“While we intend to do some general outreach regarding this effort, I would like the recommendations from those offices to be informed by consultation with their particular stakeholders,” Pruitt said in the memo.

Separately, the Department of the Interior provided a list of names: Dan Jorjani, regulatory policy officer, and James Cason, regulatory reform officer. Additionally, the task force includes: Amy Holley, Katharine MacGregor, Virginia Johnson and Scott Cameron.

Enforcing Executive Orders

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration referred the request for names to the White House, while a spokesman for the Department of Education said he had no comment.

Ellig said the executive order simply told agencies they must do this, and it is unclear what, if any, the consequences are for not complying.

“One of the challenges with executive orders has always been how do you enforce them,” Ellig said. “The president has to be willing to take some kind of action to enforce executive orders,” he said.

There is no built-in enforcement mechanism for this order, so the administration may have to get “creative” and decide whether there will be budgetary consequences, Ellig said. For example, the director of the Office of Management and Budget now sets each agency’s regulatory budget, and whether an agency is vigorously complying with the administration’s policies may factor into that budget, he suggested.

To contact the reporters on this story: Madi Alexander in Washington at malexander@bna.com; Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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