Nine Obama regulations to watch

The window is already closing on President Obama’s regulatory agenda, and agencies across the federal government are moving to crank out a slew of new rules before election year politics bring business in Washington to a virtual standstill.
 
Obama has made no bones about using the power of his office to accomplish his policy goals in lieu of congressional action, presiding over numerous controversial regulations in the energy, healthcare and financial sectors, among many others.
 
With more than a year left, the administration will continue to promulgate regulations until the clock runs out.
 
However, controversial rules in any administration tend to stall in election years. And proponents of stronger heath and safety protections fear that a GOP-controlled Congress could overturn rules issued at the tail end of the Obama administration, in the event that a Republican wins the White House next year.
 
They are instead hoping for a flurry of action this fall on regulations, many of which they see as long overdue.
 
Here are ten of the most highly anticipated rules likely to come down the pipeline in the remainder of 2015:
 
Tobacco: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to finalize its tobacco “deeming rule” to regulate all tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act, including electronic cigarettes and cigars.
 
Industry and advocacy groups have been pushing FDA to finalize the rule by the end of the summer, but with two weeks left in August all bets are now on September.
 
The agency has been slow from the start on issuing the rule, which would expand the FDA’s reach to a host of new products over which it has not previously asserted authority.
 
Congress gave FDA the power to regulate more tobacco products in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention Act, but it took the agency until April 2014 to propose the rule.
 
Ozone:  The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final ozone standards were expected to go to the White House Office of Management and Budget this month for review. 
 
In November, EPA proposed strengthening the acceptable concentration of smog from 75 parts per billion set in 2008 to a standard between 65 and 70 parts per billion. The agency is under court order to finalize the rule by Oct. 1.
 
Payday lending: In March, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) gave a sneak peak at its plan to begin regulating the payday lending industry, outlining a framework for the rules.
 
The rules expected to be proposed this fall will likely force lenders to verify a consumer’s income, debt and borrowing history when determining their ability to repay a loan in full and still cover basic living expenses.
 
As part of the rule-making process, the CFPB must convene a review panel to assess the impact of the regulation on small businesses.
 
Chemical plants: The EPA could come through with its proposed revisions to the risk management plans at chemical facilities.
 
The rule was a recommendation from the federal task force President Obama created through executive order to shore up safety at the nation’s chemical plants following the deadly blast at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013.

Food safety: The Food and Drug Administration has signed off on final rules to protect people and animals from foodborne illnesses.

In late August, the FDA sent for publication in the Federal Register a set of rules that would force manufacturers of food — for both people and animals — to implement preventive controls to minimize the risk of contaminating food when it’s manufactured, processed, packed or held by a facility.

The agency said last week that the documents could take several days to publish.

The agency has by court order until Oct. 31 to finalize safety standards for produce and a rule to create a foreign supplier verification program for imported food.
 
Clean water: EPA is expected to finalize its “Waters of the U.S.” rule, which gives the agency the authority to regulate the nation's streams, wetlands and other smaller waterways, despite legal challenges from across the country.
 
States argue the rule is overly costly and will force them to regulate roadside ditches, small ponds and even water features on golf courses — a contention that the EPA denies.
 
Agriculture: OIRA completed its review of EPA’s proposed revisions to its standards for pesticide applicators earlier this month. The final standards aim to improve the training and awareness of the potential harm that comes from exposure to pesticides. The agency could release its final rule at anytime.
 
Arbitration: In March the CFPB released a study finding that pre-dispute arbitration clauses in contractual financial agreements bar victims of illegal activity from seeking relief, particularly through class action lawsuits.
 
The report, which was a mandate of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, could signal that a rule is forthcoming.
 
Advocates for financial reform argue that a rule banning forced arbitration is needed to protect consumers from bad corporate actors.
 
Electronic records: Final rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to simplify requirements for its new electronic health record system could come this fall.  
 
The rules reduce the number of ways doctors must demonstrate how they are meeting the guidelines for the “meaningful use” of e-records and give healthcare providers more time to submit their data.
 
CMS gives financial incentives to providers that show they are using electronic health records to improve patient care. To receive the incentive and avoid Medicare payment adjustments, the agency said a provider must attest to demonstrating meaningful use every year.
 
Sarah Ferris contributed.