The Regulatory Week in Review: March 18, 2016

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President Obama nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the DOI proposes a leasing program for offshore oil and gas exploring, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • President Barack Obama nominated Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Merrick B. Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision that stoked resistance from some congressional Republicans, who have maintained that they will not vote on a nominee until after a new president has been elected this fall, but which prompted widespread support from other Republican and Democratic legislators alike, citing Judge Garland’s reputation for “consensus-building” and “judicial restraint” based on his 19-year record of judicial opinions in which he has often diverged from his conservative colleagues—by demonstrating, for instance, what some consider to be relatively strong deference to federal agencies’ decisions—at the same time that he has broken with liberals by consistently rejecting criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) published its 2017-2022 proposed Leasing Program that would permit offshore oil and gas exploring and drilling in the leased areas, including areas in both the Gulf of Mexico and Alaskan waters, while excluding areas in the Atlantic that had been previously included in the Proposed Program after opponents argued offshore drilling in the Atlantic would impact fishing, tourism, and national defense, among other reasons—a change that oil companies and industry groups have criticized as “short sighted” and “inconsistent with the will of American voters, governors and members of Congress.”
  • As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a notice that outlines the rules that political campaigns must follow for robocalls, the FCC reportedly also provided information about the restrictions the agency may add to address a provision in the 2015 budget, which excluded debt collectors from robocall rules if collecting government debt, through a proposed rule that the Commissioners considered in February.
  • As early as next month, U.S. Senator Mike Lee reportedly is planning to reintroduce the Regulatory Assessment Act—a bill that he had introduced in December 2014, which would, among other requirements, mandate that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)  jointly submit to Congress an analysis of the costs of federal regulations—a move that the bill’s supporters have hailed for “creat[ing] a controlled system that has a chance of working,” but which its opponents have condemned for being a “radical idea” that would “straggle the regulatory system.”
  • In light of a host of safety-related incidents and recommendations concerning natural gas pipelines—which are responsible for transporting natural gas from production sites to their points of use, such as home heaters and stoves—the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would add additional repair criteria for these pipelines, as well as broaden safety standards to include gathering pipelines that had not previously fallen within the agency’s ambit.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started accepting public comments about Oxitec Ltd.’s draft environmental assessment of its proposed field trial, which would test the mosquito that carries Zika, dengue, and other diseases when genetically engineered to prevent the mosquitos’ offspring from living until they reproduce, in an effort to reduce the number of the disease-carrying mosquitos.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed reports that examined how federal regulatory agencies could increase their transparency. The reports covered a wide range of regulatory topics such as cost-benefit analysis, documentation of changes, and retrospective review and recommended agencies to make more efforts to comply with the Executive Order 12866.
  • In a recently released report, Theodore Moran of the American Enterprise Institute wrote about the challenges facing IT companies in the national debates between surveillance and privacy. He argued that “[t]he international community must work together to achieve a multilateral agreement for what constitutes legal surveillance.”