Trump Administration Pressures OSHA to Cut Regulatory Budget

- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), along with other regulatory agencies, have received recent pressure from White House officials to indicate how they will cut regulatory costs for the fiscal year 2018.

In a September 7 memo, Neomi Rao of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) encouraged agencies to begin preparing for compliance with President Trump’s controversial executive order requiring agencies to trim budgets and eliminate two rules for every new rule that the agency creates.

“Each agency should include, along with its proposed FY 2018 cost allowance, an explanation of how the agency developed its proposed allowance and how that proposed allowance is consistent with the administration's regulatory policies and priorities,” the memo stated.

The order has faced criticisms from multiple public interests groups, environmentalists, and some business organizations. Inside OSHA Online reports that the executive order is currently facing a lawsuit from an environmental advocate group. The suit, which has received support from former OSHA chief, David Michaels, claims the order abridges First Amendment rights and unlawfully preempts statutory requirements.

Industry groups have generally supported the order, but some, along with prominent economists, have demonstrated skepticism regarding its effectiveness. One issue of concern is the “2-1” policy, which has been criticized for being too vague for practical implementation.

"It is more important to achieve net $0 negative regulatory costs than identifying two deregulatory actions to provide the offset,” stated the American Petroleum Institute (API) in a recent letter to the White House. “The focus should remain on reducing regulatory burden as opposed to overall number of regulations.”

Others have expressed skepticism over whether the order adequately accounts for net benefits gained from regulatory actions.

“I hate to beat a dead horse, but one would have thought that the absolute size of the 'regulatory burden' is not what's relevant,” Seth Jaffe, lawyer with the Boston firm Foley Hoag, stated in a recent blog post. “What’s relevant is whether that regulatory burden is exceeded by the benefits of proposed regulations.”

The OIRA memo can be found in its entirety here.

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