White House to tout cost savings of rollbacks

By Maxine Joselow | 10/02/2017 07:00 AM EDT

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver a speech this morning on his administration’s efforts to cut red tape and roll back regulations.

This story was updated at 10:35 a.m. EDT.

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver a speech this morning on his administration’s efforts to cut red tape and roll back regulations.

President Trump was supposed to deliver the speech himself but canceled it after the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night.


The speech will highlight the "themes of regulatory reform and the benefits that reform can have for ordinary Americans and hardworking individuals," Neomi Rao, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said during a Friday call with reporters.

"The president has made regulatory reform a key part of this administration," Rao said. "We view regulatory reform as linked to some very important goals, including promoting economic growth, job creation and spurring innovation."

Since January, the administration has completed four regulatory rulemakings and 10 deregulatory rulemakings, resulting in $300 million worth of cost savings, Rao said.

Pence is widely expected to tout Trump’s Jan. 30 executive order, which requires agencies to revoke two regulations for every new one (Greenwire, Jan. 30).

Following the speech, 10 agencies will hold listening sessions to discuss their regulatory efforts. The discussions may focus on compliance with another executive order establishing reform task forces.

Participating agencies are the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, the Interior, Labor, Transportation, and Treasury, and the Small Business Administration.

U.S. EPA — which has been at the center of much of the administration’s anti-regulatory rhetoric — will not host a listening session (E&E News PM, Sept. 28).

‘De-Reg Day’

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said Administrator Scott Pruitt will attend the event and "looks forward to taking part in De-Reg Day on Monday alongside the rest of the administration."

A senior administration official said on background that EPA has already held 11 listening sessions and "solicited comments extensively."

Still, several sources said they were surprised the agency wasn’t holding another session, given Pruitt’s penchant for deregulation.

"If I were Trump, I certainly wouldn’t have any doubts about Pruitt’s agenda when it comes to regulations," said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform.

A former legal foe of the agency, Pruitt moved to roll back an unprecedented number of environmental rules during his first four months in office.

Out of the 131 Obama-era actions the new administration eliminated in its spring 2017 regulatory agenda, 49 were from EPA (Greenwire, Aug. 2). By comparison, 17 eliminated rules were from the Department of Transportation.

DOT issued a call for public input on its review of existing regulations. The notice says the department is "reviewing its existing regulations and other agency actions to evaluate their continued necessity, determine whether they are crafted effectively to solve current problems, and evaluate whether they potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources."

The departments of the Interior and Energy didn’t respond to requests for comment on their listening sessions in time for publication.

‘Vague and void of detail’

Regulatory policy experts aren’t holding their breath for Pence to deliver any specifics during today’s speech.

Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, said he doesn’t expect the vice president to rely on many statistics.

"I’m anticipating that he’s going to cite the number of regulations that he’s repealed, and also how much that’s saving the economy," Narang said. "That’s assuming he gets into stats at all."

One number that could feature prominently, though, is zero. That’s how much agencies are supposed to spend on all new regulations in fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018, according to the Jan. 30 order and subsequent Office of Management and Budget guidance.

The "one in, two out" component has grabbed headlines and turned heads in Washington, D.C. But the regulatory budget component has garnered much less attention — until, possibly, today.

"It’s easier to talk about how for every new regulation, we want to repeal two," said Yogin Kothari, Washington representative with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But in terms of the regulatory budget, I think that’s going to start to creep up more."

Another number that could come up today is 14. That’s how many rules the Republican-controlled Congress wiped from the books earlier this year using the Congressional Review Act (E&E Daily, May 12).

But the White House shouldn’t take full credit for axing so many Obama-era regulations using the CRA, Goodwin said. "He’s probably going to include the Congressional Review Act stuff, which in point of fact he can only claim partial credit for, because a lot of the heavy lifting was done by Congress," said Goodwin.

Left and right

In anticipation of the speech, a new regulatory coalition launched in recent days. The Coalition for Regulatory Innovation aims to promote "accountability, transparency and scientific integrity" in the rulemaking process, according to its website.

While the coalition calls itself bipartisan, it has received backing from some of the biggest industry groups that stand to benefit from deregulation, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council and North America’s Building Trades Unions.

Spokesman Patrick O’Connell said the coalition aims to transcend partisan divides. "Broadly speaking, the goal of the coalition is to bring a number of industries together to find commonsense reform that both Democrats and Republicans could support," O’Connell said.

"We’re not against regulations," he said. "But we want to make sure that they’re not overly complex or burdensome. We’re just looking for more consistency and clarity from the people who write them."

Left-leaning groups are also gearing up to launch campaigns today that emphasize how regulations benefit the environment, the economy, and public health and safety.

Public Citizen, a liberal think tank founded by Ralph Nader, is readying press releases and fact sheets that showcase the stories of everyday Americans harmed by deregulation.

The Center for Progressive Reform and the Coalition on Sensible Safeguards have issued press releases and blog posts attacking the notion that regulations kill jobs — a frequent talking point on the right (Greenwire, Aug. 22).

Right-of-center groups, however, are staying mum. The Heritage Foundation and Freedom Partners, two prominent conservative think tanks that sometimes weigh in on regulatory matters, didn’t return multiple requests for comment for this story.

Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute, acknowledged in a voicemail left for E&E News that he received one of the 300 invitations to the speech.

"I think the big takeaway from this is that this is the makings of a regulatory budget," said Crews.