May 10, 2007 The Pump Handle 0Comment

By David Michaels

Matt Madia at Reg Watch has tipped us off to an article about the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs head Susan Dudley (in the subscription-only BNA), in she which gives us a preview of what we can expect from this part of the executive branch during the remainder of the Bush administration.

OIRA (part of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget) oversees all of the Administration’s regulatory policies, and is the office from which the White House exercises tight control over regulatory policy. Dudley’s nomination didn’t make it out of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; she arrived at her position via a recess appointment last month.

In her interview with BNA, Dudley weighed in on two items that about which advocates are particularly concerned about. The first is OMB’s draft risk assessment bulletin, which the National Research Council deemed “fundamentally flawed.” The NRC urged that it be withdrawn completely and OMB get out of the risk assessment business. Public health advocates (including Robert Shull on this site) cheered its demise.

Dudley (via BNA) has a sunnier interpretation: “They said ‘this is a good idea but here are some problems’ … I think that their advice was constructive and that we could move forward.”

Dudley also wants to soothe our concerns about Bush’s new executive order (click here for background). We and our colleagues are afraid that the guidance documents often issued by agencies like EPA and MSHA will fall prey to delays and meddling from OIRA; Genevieve Smith at American Prospect Online has some examples of agency work likely to suffer.

The BNA article tells us, “Dudley said critics’ fears are unwarranted that OIRA will tie up agency guidances with endless review as the result of a new executive order issued in January.”

Contrast this reassuring soundbite with actual experience. On Tuesday, Reg Watch’s Matt Madia noted that for the past several months, OMB has been sitting on guidance documents on wastewater processing from the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers.

David Michaels heads the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) and is Professor and Associate Chairman in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

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