Pending Regs

After criticism, administration releases belated regulatory roadmap

The White House on Wednesday belatedly released its spring Unified Agenda, which details the Obama administration’s regulatory plans for the months ahead.

The agenda is a compilation of proposed and ongoing rulemaking activities at federal agencies and sheds light on hundreds of regulations now in the pipeline.

Federal regulators have a statutory obligation to release a Unified Agenda in the spring and fall — typically in April and October — that details the plans and anticipated deadlines.  The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posts all the agency agendas on its website.

But the administration missed the spring deadline this year for the second consecutive year, drawing fire from congressional Republicans and business groups, who say they need to know what rules they would have to comply with in the future.

Last year, the administration released just one agenda – which came out in late December, after the November elections and days before the holidays. Wednesday’s release comes a day before the Fourth of July, when many people are taking long weekends.

The agenda’s release also comes less than a week after the Senate confirmed economist and lawyer Howard Shelanski as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which serves as a clearinghouse for new rules.

During his confirmation hearing, GOP senators pressed Shelanski on whether he would adhere to the statutory guidelines and release the agendas on time.  While he stopped short of pledging to do so, he vowed to familiarize himself with the issue and follow the law.

Most of the regulations listed on the agenda are not new, as it often takes years to finalize rules after they are first conceived. For example, a long-stalled proposed rule designed to limit construction workers exposure to silica has been in the works for decades.

It remains on the Labor Department’s to-do list, according to the agenda, though there is no listed deadline for it to be finalized. 

Among the new planned rules are an update on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nondiscrimination regulations, a review of the air standards for lead, improvements to the Energy Department’s nuclear safety regime and new protections for airline passengers.

The agenda lists a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would limit a rural housing program to American citizens, which is expected to save over $118 million

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration plans to begin working on rules about tobacco marketing and what information should be included.

 Another rule would require labels on commercial firewood moving between states. 

”This would aid in preventing the further dissemination of plant pests within the United States through the interstate movement of wood” according to the USDA.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is weighing how to regulate debt collectors, an industry that the federal government has received more complaints about than almost any other. 

A potential new rule out of the departments of Homeland Security and State would waive passport and visa requirements due to unforeseen emergencies. A similar rule had previously been in effect since 1996, but an appeals court invalidated in on procedural grounds in 2009.


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