Public Comment on OMB's 2015 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations

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by Sofie E. Miller, Senior Policy Analyst; Susan Dudley, Director; & Brian Mannix, Research Professor

December 15, 2015

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Introduction

Pursuant to the Regulatory Right-to-Know Act,[1] the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submits to Congress each year an accounting statement and associated report providing estimates of the total annual benefits and costs of federal regulations; an analysis of impacts of Federal regulation on State, local, and tribal government, small business, wages, and economic growth; and recommendations for reform.

OMB’s 2015 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations (the Report) provides the public valuable information both on estimates of the effects of major executive branch regulations and also on OMB’s focus and priorities. It also offers valuable recommendations that we agree “would allow for impact assessments to be more evidence-based, logically sound, and effectively communicated.”[2] This comment focuses on several topics covered in the Report, offers suggestions for improving retrospective review as a means to improve ex ante regulatory decisions, and raises questions about the private benefits associated with energy efficiency standards and the co-benefits attributed to some air quality standards.

Retrospective Review

Through a series of Executive Orders, including E.O. 13563 and E.O. 13610, President Obama has encouraged federal regulatory agencies to review existing regulations “that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned.” E.O. 13563 additionally instructs executive branch agencies to develop and submit to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) retrospective review plans “under which the agency will periodically review its existing significant regulations to determine whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.”

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[1]    Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (H.R. 5658, section 624, P.L. 106-554).

[2]     OMB, page 59