House Democrats call for transparency in Trump's deregulatory panels

House Democrats call for transparency in Trump's deregulatory panels
© Moriah Ratner

House Democrats want to know what President Trump’s regulatory task forces are up to, saying the panels lack "transparency, accountability and independence."

Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.), John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Overnight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog won’t drop Pruitt probes | Exxon leaves conservative advocacy group | Lawmakers offer changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (Va.) and David Cicilline (R.I.) sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and the newly minted Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Neomi Rao on Monday to express their alarm over the task forces Trump created and to request information on the nature of their meetings.

Trump issued an executive order in February directing each agency to create a task force to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations to the agency head regarding their repeal, replacement or modification.

The Democrats say those independent panels have been shrouded in secrecy, with meetings taking place largely behind closed doors without public input.

In their letter, they point to a joint report by The New York Times and Pro Publica that found panel appointees had deep industry ties and potential conflicts of interest.

“Some appointees are reviewing rules their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit if certain regulations are undone,” the outlets reported, adding that other agencies refused to release the names of the task force members.

“We believe that the interests of the American public must be paramount when reviewing the worthiness of regulations,” the Democrats wrote on Monday.

“Therefore, these Task Forces must have an effective and transparent guard against conflicts of interest, especially those in which industry lobbyists seek to overturn environmental and health protections for financial gain. It appears that the current Task Forces are already failing on this front, and instead are actively hiding their members and their meetings from public view.”

The lawmakers are asking  Mulvaney and Rao to provide a description of every task force; list the names, titles and organizations of every appointed member; and provide meeting documents and a list of all members who have recused themselves for matters related to their prior employment.

They also want to know what measures are being taken to make the regulatory review process more transparent and why some agencies have refused to disclose the names of task force members.