September 6, 2011

Returning Regulations Should Focus on the Quality of Analysis

Jerry Ellig

Former Senior Research Fellow

Last week, OIRA administrator Cass Sunstein returned his first regulation to an agency – the EPA’s revision of ozone standards. A regulation may be returned because it does not reflect the president’s priorities or because the quality of the underlying analysis is insufficient. Since the return letter was issued at President Obama’s direction, it is likely this regulation got returned because it conflicted with administration priorities.

On the Mercatus Center’s Regulatory Report Card, the analysis for the proposed regulation earned 31 out of 60 possible points – not great, but above average. So it’s doubtful the administration returned this regulation because it thought the analysis was poor.

Much more disturbing are some of the regulations that were not returned over the past few years, even though their analysis was substantially worse than the analysis for EPA’s ozone regulation. The Obama administration has shown it is willing to return regulations to agencies based on political pressure. Now it’s time for the administration to start returning regulations when agencies haven’t done their homework.