Regulatory Accountability Act Is a Frankenstein’s Monster Built to Block and Delay Public Protections

Coalition for Sensible Safeguards Urges House to Reject the RAA

Jan. 5, 2017

Contact: Lisa Gilbert, lgilbert@citizen.org, (551) 404-5200
Michell McIntyre, mmcintyre@citizen.org, (202) 454-5156
David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to reject the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) of 2017 (H.R. 5), which will be voted on next week and discussed at a Friday morning press event hosted by the bill’s author, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

The 2017 RAA is far worse than previous, devastatingly harmful versions of the bill because it resurrects and includes half a dozen major anti-regulatory measures from the 114th Congress: the Regulatory Accountability Act, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, the REVIEW Act, the ALERT Act, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act and the Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act.

“Chairman Goodlatte has cobbled together a series of incredibly damaging attacks on our system of regulatory protections. The resulting bill is a Frankenstein’s monster that should horrify the American people,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and chair of the coalition.

“The RAA really should be called the ‘Regulatory Paralysis Act’ since its purpose is to infuse so much delay into the rulemaking process that it comes screeching to a halt,” Weissman added. “Several provisions of the bill are designed to block the most far-reaching and impactful regulatory protections, such as the Clean Power Plan, overtime pay protections and Wall Street reforms. Why would congressional Republicans unleash this horror on the American people? The only answer is to satisfy the demands of big business, no matter the harms to the country.”

The major provisions of the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 form the core of the new legislation. These provisions would add more than 80 burdensome and time-consuming hurdles to the rulemaking process, paralyzing agencies that already are struggling to operate under tight budgets. In addition, they would establish a default requirement that agencies adopt rules that are the least costly to industry, irrespective of the public benefits – overriding the Clean Air Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and dozens of other laws that make protecting the public and workers the highest priority.

Also included in the bill, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would require agencies to consider the “indirect effects” of rules on small businesses without defining what that term means. In practice, agencies would be pressured to treat every rule as impacting small business – even ones that, in reality, apply primarily to the big banks or big oil companies – and would be forced to delay acting until additional analyses are completed. During public health emergencies and industrial accidents when agencies need to respond quickly, lives could be lost and Americans could be needlessly injured while agencies are forced to complete time consuming analyses.

The provisions from the REVIEW Act would require courts reviewing “high-impact” regulations to automatically “stay” or block the enforcement of such regulations until all litigation is resolved, a process that takes many years to complete. This not only would tie the hands of agencies and courts, it would invite nearly endless litigation that would increase regulatory delays immeasurably.

The ALERT Act section would add to the rulemaking process an arbitrary six-month delay that would not help to save lives, protect public health and hold industry accountable. The provision’s reporting requirements ask agencies to duplicate information that is already available at Regulations.gov. It also would require regulators to calculate and post the costs of new rules, but makes no similar demand when it comes to the benefits of those rules or the costs of failing to regulate. This one-sided approach to “transparency” would mislead the public.

The Separation of Powers Restoration Act provision seeks to end judicial deference to agency interpretation of statutory requirements, known as Chevron deference. Eliminating Chevron deference would bog down the already slow regulatory process with more lawsuits. And the Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act provision would require agencies to link to a 100-word online summary of proposed rules that they already provide at Regulations.gov.

“Public protections face years of delay, and the more protective they are, the more time they take to establish, implement and enforce,” said Weissman, citing a recent report from Public Citizen. “The consequences of delay are serious, with real and harmful impacts on real people and businesses. Delay creates the regulatory uncertainty that many business spokespeople denounce and means that lives are needlessly lost, injuries are needlessly suffered and consumer rip-offs continue. The House should reject this monstrosity.”

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