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Regulations Cuts Prompt Legal Action By Public-Interest Groups

Public interest groups are concerned about a presidential executive order to cut two federal regulations for each new one released. (Mampato/Wikimedia)
Public interest groups are concerned about a presidential executive order to cut two federal regulations for each new one released. (Mampato/Wikimedia)
February 13, 2017

BOSTON — Public interest law, environmental and labor groups are suing to stop the Trump administration's executive order to cut government regulations.

The order, signed January 30, requires federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one enacted. New regulations must have a net cost of $0 in the current fiscal year, without consideration for the value of benefits to public health and safety.

According to Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, that would require agencies to violate existing law governing the regulatory process, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act.

"The Administrative Procedure Act says they are not permitted to engage in decisions that are arbitrary and capricious,” Weissman explained. "This executive order requires them to take into account irrational factors, things that exactly fit that definition."

Supporters of the order have said it will clear away unnecessary regulations that hamper the growth of small businesses and cripple the economy.

David Goldston, director of public affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the two-for-one requirement will stymie the issuing of new regulations. He pointed to the 2016 update of the Toxic Substances Control Act - the first major revision in 40 years.

"Why would finally catching up with chemicals that have been on the market for decades mean that we don't need a clean air regulation or a clean water regulation or, for that matter, a regulation for another chemical?” Goldston argued.

He said the executive order puts industry concerns about the cost of complying with regulations ahead of the public's concerns about the cost of the problem that the regulation is trying to solve.

Weissman said reports by the White House Office of Management and Budget consistently have found that the benefits of regulations are significant.

"The most significant rules adopted have benefits that outweigh costs as much as 14 to one,” he said. "But if you look at the big rules, the benefits are 10 times - or more - greater than the cost."

The lawsuit challenging the executive order was filed last week in the federal district court in Washington, D.C.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA