White House clings to risk assessment goals

A mere nine months after the National Academy of Science told OMB to junk its junk science proposal, the Bush administration is at it again. On Wednesday, OIRA administrator Susan Dudley and OSTP’s associate director Sharon Hays sent a memorandum to all executive agencies. The memo advised that “after carefully evaluating [the] constructive recommendations from the NAS, as well as feedback from rigorous interagency review, and public comments” OMB decided not to issue a final version of its risk assessment bulletin, but instead, to issue a memorandum “to enhance the scientific quality, objectivity, and utility of Agency risk analyses and the complementary objectives of improving efficiency and consistency among the Federal family.”

Translation: Fine, we’ll nix the bulletin, but if you think we’re just going to walk away without getting our two cents in, you’ve got another think coming.


RegWatch’s Matt Madia has more on this in his post: “White House Expands Micromanagement of Agency Activity.” Madia points out that while the memorandum lacks the enforcement “teeth” that a formal bulletin would have, the memorandum nonetheless goes out of its way to “[reaffirm] existing OMB policies which diminish agency discretion.” In terms of particulars:

  • The memo reminds us that there are new requirements for agency “guidance documents” set out by the Good Guidance Practices Bulletin and amendments to Executive Order 12866. Apparently, the White House believes risk assessments (which are not just documents but entire processes) to be a form of guidance.
  • For risk management, the memo consistently urges agencies to consult OMB Circular A-4, a document spelling out the process by which agencies prepare cost-benefit analyses for regulatory activities. Even in a memo on risk assessment, the White House reminds us of its penchant for making economics the primary consideration in rulemaking.
  • The memo states, “The agency also should identify the sources of the underlying information … and the supporting data and models, so that the public can evaluate whether there may be some reason to question objectivity.” While Reg•Watch is all for transparency and objectivity, this statement appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to promote Data Quality Act challenges. DQA challenges are a favorite way of the White House and industry to delay regulation.

To read the rest of Madia’s post, click here.

To see more Pump Handle posts on OMB’s risk assessment bulletin, see posts here and here. For more on U.S. regulations in general, visit our topic page here.