Dems push for quicker White House approval of pending regulations

A group of House and Senate Democrats is putting pressure on the Obama administration to move faster on federal regulations.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, Democrats urged the administration to comply with an executive order that requires the White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to finish reviews of pending regulations within 90 days.

“[K]ey standards to protect public health, worker safety, and the environment have languished at OIRA, in some cases for years,” the Democrats wrote Tuesday to OMB Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

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The letter's signatories were Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Edward Markey (Mass.).

They said approval of regulations was more necessary now than ever to push policies above a “Congress often paralyzed by gridlock.”

The lawmakers said 14 of 20 pending Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules have been stuck at OIRA for more than 90 days, 13 of which have been there more than one year.

One such proposed EPA rule would clarify which agencies have jurisdiction over certain waters and wetlands. The draft rule has been at OIRA since February 2012.

The legislators said White House delay “will continue to create confusion, loopholes, and inconsistency for officials at the state and local level.”

Additionally, nine of 10 Energy Department rules (DOE) have waited at OIRA for more than 120 days, the lawmakers said. And a proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule to reduce exposure to silica, a carcinogen, has been at OIRA more than two years.

“OIRA frequently holds onto rules without explaining its concerns, preventing agencies from taking steps to address them. If there are problems with rules or guidance submitted by any agency, those problems should be aired and addressed, not kept hidden behind closed doors,” the lawmakers wrote.