Center for Progressive Reform

12 Rules in Need of ‘A Sense of Urgency’

Obama Administration in Danger of Not Finishing Key Rules in Time

The wheels of the regulatory process turn slowly, partly because the process is full of important opportunities for input from the public and regulated entities. But it’s also slow because it is rife with opportunities for diversion by advocates whose interests are served by delay,  and because the Washington regulatory apparatus has simply grown accustomed to missed deadlines and overly lengthy review periods.

Slow-motion regulating often served the purposes of the Bush Administration. But the Obama Administration came to power with the stated objective of reinvigorating regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and more. And with regulatory timelines spanning years, not months, the Administration’s commitment would suggest the need for a certain sense of urgency. But two years into the Administration, with a new presidential campaign starting to gear up and the end of the President’s first term in sight, a report from a group of CPR Member Scholars and staff identified nine critical rules in danger of not emerging from the pipeline in time.

 Read CPR's March 2012 Issue Alert, updating the status of the 12 rules identified in this report.
The report examines 12 rules in all, three that the authors describe as currently on track, and nine that the authors say are either unlikely or in danger of not emerging before the middle of 2012, when they would be subject to the stormy and politicized winds of a presidential campaign and when they might even be vulnerable to reversal by a subsequent administration.

The report, Twelve Crucial Health, Safety, and Environmental Regulations: Will the Obama Administration Finish in Time?, notes that the failure to complete work on the nine endangered rules “would not be the consequence of congressional interference or other political opposition, but a flat out failure of the Administration to get its work done in a timely manner – a straightforward unforced error with potentially huge consequences.” 

The nine rules described in the report as in danger of not being finished are:


  • New Source Performance Standards to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Petroleum Refineries and Power Plants (EPA);
  • Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for light duty vehicles, model years 2017-2025 (EPA and NHTSA);
  • Guidance on the Scope of the Clean Water Act (EPA);
  • National Stormwater Program Rule (EPA);
  • Mountaintop Removal Mining Rules (Guidance for Applying Clean Water Act Permits to Mining Operations and Stream Buffer Rule) (EPA and Interior OSMRE);
  • Coal Ash Disposal Rule (EPA);
  • Injury and Illness Prevention Program (OSHA);
  • Pattern of Violations Policy (MSHA); and
  • Chemicals of Concern List (EPA).

The report says that three factors will play an outsized role in whether the Administration finishes in time: delays from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, needlessly protracted deliberations by the agencies themselves, and pressure from anti-regulatory interests.

The report’s authors are CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Amy Sinden and CPR Policy Analysts Matthew Shudtz, James Goodwin, Yee Huang, and Lena Pons. A number of CPR scholars, acknowledged in the report, also contributed their expertise on particular regulatory issues. 

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© Center for Progressive Reform, 2013