Lefty groups fear White House reg reform plan will slash green protections

Increased emphasis on international regulatory cooperation could be a good thing — if its priority is to improve and maintain regulatory protections across borders. But, too often international cooperation is an excuse to water down protections to the lowest level — a move that typically hurts American workers, consumers, and environment.

CPR’s David Hunter is similarly critical in a Wednesday post.

“Unfortunately, this order is a one-way regulatory ratchet that leads only to deregulatory changes in the United States that at best will provide no new protection to U.S. citizens or the environment,” writes Hunter, a professor at American University’s law school.

The executive order makes the case that, at times, differences between U.S. regulations and other nations’ might not be necessary and hinder exports from U.S. businesses and their ability to compete internationally.

Cass Sunstein, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, sought to ward off criticism with a Wall Street Journal column the day the order was rolled out.

“The order makes clear that we will not undermine American laws or compromise our national prerogatives,” he wrote. “But it emphasizes that international cooperation and harmonization can increase trade and job creation, eliminating pointless burdens without creating a regulatory race to the bottom.”

The order itself says that better cooperation can help boost protections while scrapping unneeded differences. It states:

In meeting shared challenges involving health, safety, labor, security, environmental and other issues, international regulatory cooperation can identify approaches that are at least as protective as those that are or would be adopted in the absence of such cooperation. International regulatory cooperation can also reduce, eliminate or prevent unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements.

Hunter, however, fears that removing “unnecessary” differences is a stalking horse for business-backed efforts to scale back protections, noting that the plan won vigorous applause from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Sunstein touted the plan at a Chamber event Tuesday.

“If ‘unnecessary’ is read narrowly enough, the order could do little damage to our environmental and public health protections — but the pressures and signals in this order all point toward an expansive witch hunt for 'unnecessary' regulatory differences,” Hunter writes.

Public Citizen weighs in here, while the Union of Concerned Scientists looks at the plan here. And The Hill's Erik Wasson looked in-depth at the executive order here.