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It’s taking longer and longer for federal agencies to issue rules, but Republicans want to drag it out even more

RegulationsIt’s taking more time for federal agencies to create and finalize new public protections, especially for the most important rules, according to a report by Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.

However, rather than trying to improve the process, Republican lawmakers are proposing layering on new requirements to rulemaking that would add to the delays and put public health and the environment at greater risk, said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Cost-benefit analyses, extensive agency reviews, and advanced notice and comment periods are among the reasons for excessive delays, the report found. It analyzed more than 20 years of data from the federal government’s semi-annual Unified Agenda on federal regulations.


Among the major findings, economically significant rules finalized in 2015 took 3.4 years each to complete. These rules in 2016 took 3.8 years to complete, nearly 60 percent greater than the average of 2.4 years it takes to finish such rules.

“If the current trends in rulemaking length continue,” said Michael Tanglis, senior researcher for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and lead author of the report, “a president's ability to pass an economically significant regulation in one term may be in jeopardy.”

Despite lengthily delays, members of Congress are proposing bills that would add additional steps to the process.

“Adding more steps to the regulatory process would only add to the already record-breaking delays,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “For the architects of the GOP’s regulatory agenda, that’s precisely the point.”

The report analyzed the effects of requirements that complicate the rulemaking process. These were associated with greater delays:
  • Rules that are economically significant, which must undergo cost-benefit analysis and potentially lengthy reviews by the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, took 41 percent longer to complete than average.
  • Some rulemaking involves an additional stage known as “advance notice of public rulemaking,” where agencies alert the public they’re considering developing a rule and ask for feedback. Economically significant rules that included an ANRPM took on average 4.4 years to complete, twice as long as rules without this step.
  • When rulemakings included an ANPRM and a regulatory flexibility analysis, which consists of an intensive study of the proposed rule’s potential effects on small businesses, the average time to complete a rule increased to 4.7 years.

In addition, the report found that some agencies are subject to extraordinary regulatory delays.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration took an average of 12.5 years to complete its economically significant rules. OSHA recently completed a standard to protect workers from unsafe exposure to silica dust, which the agency estimates will save more than 500 lives each year. Completion of that rule took more than 19 years and spanned three presidential administrations.

Copyright 2016, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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