White House unveils regulatory agenda

White House unveils regulatory agenda
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The White House on Friday unveiled its semiannual regulatory agenda, detailing the rules that federal agencies will make top priorities in the next year.

The Obama administration's fall Unified Agenda contains hundreds of rules in the works at agencies across the government, including many that have been in the pipeline for years. The new agenda updates progress on many of the rules, providing new insight about the president's regulatory priorities during his last months in office.

Among the changes revealed in the fall agenda is a new release date for final Labor Department regulations meant to limit workers' exposure to silica dust.

Safety advocates have decried the numerous delays on the rule, which aims to protect workers from the cancer-causing dust most commonly found at construction sites and shipyards. The final rule has been scheduled for February.

James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform, said the rule is long overdue and lamented the increasing length of time it has taken to implement major worker health and safety rules.

“lt's the first health-based standard that’s been finished,” he said. “So that’s a big deal. They used to put those out in the '70s a couple times a year.”

The agenda also sets a timeline for the release of final rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Final rules for the sanitary transportation of animal and human food are expected in April; final rules to revise nutrition fact labels on food and dietary supplements are due out in March.

Regulatory advocates are typically frustrated with the Obama administration’s timing in releasing the report, which traditionally comes out just before the Thanksgiving holiday as lawmakers are headed out of town.

Advocates say there are bigger concerns are over how many rules are delayed from one agenda to the next. Goodwin said a quick review of the plan turned up 24 rules that have been pushed back by at least two months.

The final FDA rules for regulating all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and conventional cigars, that were scheduled for June in the spring agenda are now scheduled to be released this month. But the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has six meetings with industry groups scheduled into December.

Goodwin said the e-cigarrette rule alone illustrates why the regulatory agenda is out of date the second it’s published.

“It’s at least five months behind already,” he said of the rule. “My guess is it’s not coming out until December or January."

The Environmental Protection Agency has also moved the deadline for final formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products from this month to May and moved proposed rules to ban trichloroethylene, or TCE, under the Toxic Substances Control Act from January to March.

Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, said time is running out for the administration to finish much needed public health and safety protections.

"The administration must work quickly to finalize the numerous health and safety regulations that are currently languishing in the rulemaking process, in some cases since the president's first term"