Spring Regulatory Agenda Marks Start of Agency Deregulation

By Cheryl Bolen

The long-awaited Spring 2017 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions will be released the morning of July 20, showing for the first time in the Trump administration agencies’ specific targets for deregulation.

Agencies have been scouring their stockpiles of existing regulations to find those that can be eliminated or modified in an effort to find offsets for the new regulations that they plan to issue in the future.

“It’s really the beginning of a kind of fundamental regulatory reform and a reorientation of where we’re going with regulation,” Neomi Rao, the new administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, told reporters in her office July 19. “This is a great preview of a truly fundamental shift.”

OIRA is an agency within the White House Office of Management and Budget that reviews all significant federal regulations and will be guiding agencies as they undertake this unprecedented deregulatory effort.

Top-Line Numbers

The unified agenda is a semiannual report that lists each agency’s best understanding of where it intends to act in the next 12 months. It is a preliminary overview that may change, as some actions may be added and others removed. Actions can be notices, proposals, or final rules.

The agenda will show 860 proposed regulatory actions that were withdrawn or removed from active status from the fall 2016 agenda that was released by the Obama administration last November.

Of that total, 469 regulatory actions were completely withdrawn and 391 were removed from active status and put on the back burner for further review and consideration.

Among regulations proposed since the fall agenda, there has been a 50 percent drop in economically significant regulations, and a 40 percent drop in other significant regulations, Rao said. The new agenda has 58 economically significant regulations—those having an economic impact of $100 million or more annually.

The total number of regulatory actions that agencies expect to take in the upcoming year is 1,732, which is about a 20 percent drop from the fall 2016 agenda.

Deregulatory Actions

Separate from the regulatory actions that are being withdrawn, there are “dozens and dozens” of deregulatory actions that will be listed in the agenda, an OMB official said.

Rao said the agency’s computer system isn’t able to differentiate a regulatory action from a deregulatory action, making tracking difficult. Each rule listed, however, will indicate whether it is a deregulatory action, she said.

For the fall 2017 report, OIRA hopes to restructure the presentation and classification system so that it will be easier to see what is a regulatory action and what is deregulatory, Rao said.

There are many ways to deregulate, including by reducing paperwork burdens, Rao said. The Department of the Interior, for example, is proposing to reduce permitting requirements for outdoor enthusiasts such as sport fishermen using federal lands, she said.

Deregulation Will Take Time

For many years, there has been a bipartisan commitment to reviewing and revising regulations to make sure they are still working, Rao said.

“This administration is upholding that long-standing priority in a way that hasn’t been done before,” she said.

The agenda includes actions that are proposed for both the short term and long term, Rao said. And it recognizes, by identifying these actions now, that agencies are trying to be careful, she said.

“This is going to take time. Reorientation will take time because deregulation takes time. It has to be done the right way—both within the requirements of the law and in a way that’s effective and analytically defensible,” she said.

Some regulations are required by law and therefore can’t be eliminated, although they can be amended, Rao noted.

More Than ‘Housekeeping’

President Donald Trump has variously said that anywhere from 70 percent to 95 percent of regulations should be eliminated, though Rao said there is no particular percentage of regulations that are being targeted for elimination.

“But I think it’s not just about housekeeping,” Rao said. “It’s about beginning a process of really looking at regulations and thinking about what’s working and what’s not working, and revising, amending or eliminating regulations.”

To contact the reporter on this story: 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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