WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Senator Maggie Hassan led her colleagues in sending a letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Neomi Rao, seeking further information about the process by which the OIRA review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule on regulatory science was completed. In the letter, the Senators question Administrator Rao on when the review was completed and why it was completed in such a short time frame.
The letter comes after Senator Hassan questioned Administrator Rao at a hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, where Administrator Rao stated that she would not support agencies changing procedure in ways that prevent them from using best available evidence when making regulatory and deregulatory decisions, which is exactly what EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposed rule would do.
The letter was also signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
See below for highlights of coverage of the letter:
By Sean Reilly
A half-dozen Democratic senators are pressing the White House Office of Management and Budget for details on its extraordinarily swift review last month of an EPA proposal to restrict the types of scientific studies that can be used in crafting major new regulations.
In a letter today, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and five other lawmakers voiced concerns both about the handling of the review by OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and the subsequent decision to sign off on the proposed rule in less than a week.
"Scientists have been clear that this proposal would restrict EPA from using the best available scientific evidence and prevent EPA from considering key research when developing critical clean air and clean water protections that all Americans rely on," they said in the letter to OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao. "This is exactly the type of policy that you publicly pledged to oppose."
… Among the questions posed by the lawmakers: whether officials from EPA or elsewhere in the executive branch pressured OIRA to accelerate the review; why OIRA approved the proposed rule without a "robust" cost-benefit analysis; and why the Reginfo.gov site was backdated after initially showing that the review concluded the day after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the proposal on April 24. After the change, the site now shows the review ended April 23, or four days after EPA sent it over. That's far less than the 55-day average for reviews of EPA rules since President Trump took office in January 2017, the letter said.
… At a Senate hearing last month, before the draft rule was sent to OIRA, Hassan had asked Rao whether she would "generally support agencies changing their procedures in ways that prevent them from using the best available evidence in making these decisions." Rao responded, "No, I would not" (E&E Daily, April 13).
"Despite this response, the proposed EPA rule that OIRA signed off on appears to do just that," today's letter said. […]