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®: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

NRDC's Access to OIRA Should Not Be Restricted
For decades, the administration in the White House has implemented its policy in part through federal regulations. In recent years, the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has been one instrument used for this purpose by both Democratic and Republican administrations. OIRA operates in a remarkably open and transparent manner. This open and transparent method of implementing policy is preferable and superior to secret 'midnight calls' from the White House to agency staff.

Consequently, we are baffled by the criticism of OIRA contained in the Environmental Law Forum article "The Bottleneck." The crux of this article is that OIRA is too open and transparent, and that its open-door policy has been disproportionately used by 'industry groups.'

The article complains that

    "OIRA has adopted perhaps the most extreme open-door policy in Washington with respect to rulemaking proposals, agreeing to meet with anyone who asks for such an audience, whether or not the originating agency has officially submitted the matter for review. It insists that it is required by EO 12,866 to sit down with all comers. This assertion is a blatant misreading because nothing in the executive order requires such a policy; it merely requires OIRA to make certain disclosures when it does meet with individuals from outside the executive branch.

    Equal access to OIRA does not produce balanced participation. Over the last decade, 65 percent of the 5,759 participants who met with OIRA represented industry interests - about five times the number appearing on behalf of public interest groups."

    This article, which apparently represents the views of the Center for Progressive Reform, recommends some changes in OIRA's current practice, including the following, "The office should terminate its practice of meeting with any and all outside parties, repetitively."

    If some non-industry interest groups do not use the open and transparent OIRA process, then the fault lies with those groups, not with the process, and not all of these groups are at fault. According to this article, four "environmental groups" were among the ten private entities who met most often with OIRA. The Natural Resources Defense Counsel ranked second in number of meetings. CRE does not believe that NRDC's access to OIRA should be restricted as proposed by the Center for Progressive Reform.

    The White House administration in power will use federal regulations to help implement its policies. The balanced, open and transparent OIRA process is much more in the public interest than the inevitable alternative, which is secrecy and unequal access.
  • Click here to read "The Bottleneck."
  • Click here to read "Presidential Accountability in Rulemaking," which presents an alternative point of view