Transparency takes center stage at hearing on midnight regulations

Transparency takes center stage at hearing on midnight regulations
© Greg Nash

Transparency in the rulemaking process took center stage at a hearing Wednesday focused on midnight regulations.

“Even with subpoena power, this committee is having a hard time getting transparency from these agencies, especially the EPA, who fails to respond to our requests for their data, further models for information,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said.

Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO if the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, testified in response that agencies need to do be more transparent in how they calculate the economic impact of regulations, as well as the technical information that’s being used to justify the cost.

“We had some hope with President Obama’s executive order in January 2011, which again said with scientific and technical information that the goal was – I actually think there was a requirement to – move this stuff online so people could see it on regulations.gov. But, as you noted, even with subpoena power you’re not getting this,” she said.

Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the conservative American Action Forum, pointed to the All Economic Regulations are Transparent, or ALERT Act of 2015 when asked what else can be done to improve the rulemaking process.

That legislation, which passed the House last month, would force federal agencies to post information, including the cost-benefit analysis, of a regulation on the Internet for at least six months before the rule can go into effect.

“There are some regulations we’ve studied where there has been an economically significant regulations proposed before it was even published in the Unified Agenda, period, and had very little in the way of public input,” Batkins said, referring to a midnight regulation from the Department of Energy in 2000. That rule, he said, was proposed in October and finalized the following January.

“The entire rulemaking history was less than the comment period for the Clean Power Plan, so that’s how quickly some rulemakings and move through the process in a matter of weeks,” he added.