From: Bloomberg

U.S. rule changes involving street signs, train control systems and hospital reporting requirements will save consumers and businesses almost $6 billion in the next five years, the Obama administration said.

The cost savings are about the same as the annual expense involved in rulemaking, said Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who announced the reforms today at an American Bar Association meeting in Washington.

“We have in one day taken away that cost,” he said.

Republicans have criticized some regulations issued by President Barack Obama as too burdensome on business and have made his approach to rule-making a campaign issue.

One change will save hospitals and doctors $5 billion over five years by eliminating some reporting requirements, particularly on Medicare and Medicaid patients, according to a White House statement.

Other changes will eliminate rules requiring states to mandate vapor-recovery systems at gasoline stations, exempt railroads from installing crash-avoidance technology on tracks that won’t carry toxic chemicals or passengers, and give states and localities more time to replace street signs and other traffic-control devices.

Obama signed an executive order institutionalizing a periodic look-back on existing rules, Sunstein said.

Added Rules

Rules approved in the first 32 months of Obama’s presidency cost $19.9 billion with net benefits of more than $91 billion, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Both the expense and benefit of rules surpassed the totals of predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for comparable periods, OMB figures show.

Sunstein has emphasized cost-benefit analyses in his office’s approach to regulation review. In March, Sunstein issued a memo underscoring the need to consider the cumulative effects and burdens of new rules on business.

Last week, Sunstein announced an executive order calling for U.S. regulations to be more closely aligned with those of major trading partners to reduce costs and promote economic growth.

Sunstein’s approach goes too easy on business, said Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, a Washington-based research group that studies regulatory policy. The group has issued a report critical of rulemaking delays by the Obama White House.

“He’s playing a political game and I don’t understand why he thinks it will work,” Steinzor said in a telephone interview. “He is trying to neutralize the criticism that the president is killing jobs through regulation. He’s trying to do that by killing regulation.”