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Feb
19

Wonks in embattled regulatory office are mysterious — but ‘not nefarious’

From: E&E Publishing/Greenwire

Robin Bravender and Emily Yehle, E&E reporters

First of two stories about OIRA.

On the 10th floor of a red brick building with a leaky roof not far from the White House are offices and cubicles filled with some of the most influential people in Washington.

Most people have never heard of them.

They’re the cadre of wonky bureaucrats in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a division of the White House budget office.

The staff of OIRA (pronounced oh-EYE-ra) plays a big role in shaping federal rules that govern everything from how much smog can be in the air to whether farmworkers are required to wash their hands before handling food and how close ships can get to whales.

“It’s an incredibly important but not that well-known piece of the White House office,” said Ron White, director of regulatory policy at the government reform advocacy group Center for Effective Government. “It’s a critical bottleneck that everybody has to pass through in order for regulations to get passed and get on the books.”

OIRA staffers’ names and titles are hard to find. The White House didn’t respond to a request for a roster of the office employees. The importance of the office, combined with the relative paucity of information about its inner workings and constant attacks from outside groups, has long added to OIRA’s mystique.

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