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Obama and Gov. Christie on the Same Corporate Page on Environmental Regulation

Similar Executive Orders – Similar Records – Similar Corporate Interests

President Obama is a liberal champion of strong EPA regulations, right?

And Gov. Christie is a conservative Republican who hates “job killing red tape” and promotes “regulatory relief” for his corporate backers, right?

They are at entirely different poles of the ideological spectrum on regulation, right?

So how could they possibly be on the same page on environmental regulatory policy?

To understand that seeming contradiction, let’s start with last week’s important Washington Post’s story on the Obama administration environmental policy:

The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.

Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.

The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.

As cynical and corrosive of democracy as that was, the WaPo story was not just about delaying critical regulatory protections for political reasons in the run-up to the 2012 election.

It was about substantively weakening and avoiding regulations, providing undue access to corporate interests, and behind the scenes bureaucratic maneuvers to gut regulations.

And you can find that story if you go into the weeds and chase the links in the WaPo story. Hitting those links, one can see how the Post  painted a hidden and devastating critique of Obama environmental policy.

Specifically, there were important substantive regulatory policy Reports embedded that told an insidious story about the reality of Obama administration environmental policy. We urge you to hit the links and get into the weeds to read what I will call the embedded story.

The embedded story totally contradicts the generally progressive and pro-environmental rhetoric that emanates from the White House and EPA press releases on a regular basis.

Specifically, the embedded story paints a picture of an Administration that routinely sacrifices – sells out – important public health, environment, worker safety, and consumer protections to industry pressure and corporate profits.

To grasp this story, you need go no further than this gem that we found in those weeds – this revealing excerpt from a new book by Cass Sunstein, the Obama first term “Regulatory Czar”.

The Obama ”Regulatory Czar” himself frankly admits and explains how that corporate sellout works:

In his revealing book, Sunstein tells us why: It is because he, Sunstein, had the authority to “say no to members of the president’s Cabinet”; to deposit “highly touted rules, beloved by regulators, onto the shit list“; to ensure that some rules  “never saw the light of day”;  to impose cost-benefit analysis “wherever the law allowed”; and to “transform cost-benefit analysis from an analytical tool into a “rule of decision,” meaning that “[a]gencies could not go forward” if their rules flunked OIRA’s cost-benefit test.

(see: Sunstein’s ‘Simpler Government’ Is Legally Suspect, Overly Secretive And Politically Unaccountable

The disgusting Sunstein revelations confirm exactly what I wrote previously when Sunbstein resigned in August 2012, both about his role, the role of cost benefit analysis, and how various procedural “reforms” of the regulatory process are designed to protect corporate interests and frustrate the public interest.

In addition to the actual individual regulatory practices documented by the Washington Post story and confirmed by Regulatory Czar Sunstein himself, we need to consider the formal policy  framework within which these regulatory actions occur, i.e. Executive Orders on regulatory policy.

Some time ago, I compared Obama’s Executive Order 13563 — Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review with Governor Christie’s

  • Executive Order #1 establishing a moratorium of regulations;
  • Executive Order #2 calling for “immediate regulatory relief”, cost benefit analysis, and rollback of NJ’s strict State standards to their federal minimum;
  • Executive Order #3 attacking regulations as “job killing red tape” and
  • Executive Order #4 prohibiting unfunded state regulatory mandates on local governments

Those Obama and Christie Executive Orders share many common premises, policy elements, procedures, and overall objectives – sometimes even language – including:

  • using regulations to promote economic development and jobs
  • removing regulatory burdens on corporations
  • providing behind closed doors access to corporate interests
  • reliance on cost benefit analysis to elevate economic considerations above protections
  • negative premises and perceptions of regulations and government bureaucracy as a drag on economic growth
  • equating industry “science” with government and academic science

So, in both Executive Orders and actual regulatory practice, Obama and Christie are on the same corporate page when it comes to environmental regulation.

And the word to describe it is a lot worse than “regulatory capture”.


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