The White House on Friday quietly released its annual draft report to Congress on the costs and benefits of regulations and the results show that major rulemakings over the past decade have yielded great benefits.
The findings are at odds with an administration that's pushing federal agencies to cut rules and ease excessive regulatory burdens it says were imposed by the previous administration.
The Trump administration report says that from fiscal 2007 through 2016 the annual economic benefits of major rulemakings reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were estimated to be between $287 billion and $911 billion.
The report found that from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2016, the annual benefits of regulations outweighed the annual costs, which were estimated to be between $78 billion and $115 billion in 2015 dollars.
The results, regulatory advocates say, seem to undercut the president's continued push for a policy requesting that two regulations be removed for every new rule proposed.
Sofie Miller, a senior policy analyst at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center, said the report is not a tally of the costs and benefits of rules issued by the Trump administration, but rather a window into the regulatory activity undertaken by the Obama administration.
“We are issuing this report after a change in administration, and therefore would like to clarify that OMB’s reporting of the results of these [regulatory impact analyses] does not imply an endorsement by the current Administration of all of the assumptions made and analyses conducted at the time these regulations were finalized,” OMB said in the report.
As Miller notes, the accounting is for 137 major rules — those with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more — that agencies have calculated both monetized costs and benefits for.
But OMB details in the report it's looking to change the way it writes the report given the Trump administration's focus on deregulation. The GOP-led Congress has also successfully repealed 15 regulations under the Congressional Review Act.
OMB said in the report that it’s considering whether to change the report and completely remove rules that were repealed or report them separately. It's also looking at whether to adjust the reporting of the costs and benefits of revised rules if a subsequent analysis suggests the impacts weren't adequately analyzed or if the impacts are different than originally expected.
Public Citizen, a public interest group that sued Trump over his two-for-one regulatory order, said the report undercuts the justification for Trump’s deregulatory agenda.
“Every year that the government has calculated the costs and benefits of federal regulations, it always has shown that health, safety and environmental protections are one of the best investments we can make — with returns on investment that would make Fortune 500 companies jealous,” Amit Narang, the group’s regulatory policy advocate, said in a statement.
“These results are even more compelling given that the cost-benefit methodology used in this report habitually overstates compliance costs and understates the less tangible but very real benefits of regulatory safeguards,” he said.