This Week in Regulation

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The D.C. Circuit rules in favor of the Obama Administration’s methane rule, the Senate passes an FDA funding bill, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reportedly held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must enforce a rule issued by the Obama Administration aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industries. Leading up to the ruling, environmental groups reportedly urged the D.C. Circuit to order EPA to enforce the rule. The decision came after the D.C. Circuit ruled last month that EPA “lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to” delay implementation of the rule.
  • The U.S. Senate voted 94-1 to pass an important funding bill for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bipartisan bill—only Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against the measure—would renew FDA’s ability to collect user fees from prescription drug and medical device companies, which reportedly could account for $8-9 billion in revenue over a five-year period. The bill will now be sent to President Trump for his approval, though he has not yet signaled whether he will sign the bill.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the reversal of its decision to delay implementation of an Obama Administration ozone regulation. EPA stated it will no longer be delaying the regulation’s October 1, 2017 deadline by one year, but instead will be “moving forward with 2015 ozone designations” and “working with states” to address issues under the regulations, adding that future delays may be necessary “to ensure that [ozone] designations are founded on sound policy and the best available information.” The announcement came a day after the attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia sued EPA over the original one year delay.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement what it described as “experimental procedures” aimed at encouraging “public-private partnerships in public transportation.” The Transportation Department hopes that the proposed rule will “encourage increased project management flexibility, more innovation in project funding, improved efficiency, timely project implementation, and new project revenue streams.” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that the proposed rule “will help us better understand the ways that unnecessary procedures may get in the way of building the best projects possible at the lowest cost to the public.”
  • In a 50-48 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Marvin Kaplan for one of the five seats on the National Labor Relations Board. President Trump’s decision to nominate Kaplan, an attorney who previously served as counsel to several U.S. House of Representatives committees, was viewed as controversial by Democrats, with Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) reportedly saying Kaplan confused basic labor issues during his confirmation hearing.
  • Fifteen Democratic U.S. Senators, led by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to extend the comment period for his Restoring Internet Freedom proposal. The proposal, which would roll back net neutrality measures instituted under President Obama, has reportedly received more than 16 million public comments, a record for the FCC. Given the number of comments, the Senators ask “the FCC to extend the reply comment period to allow sufficient time for the public to ensure their views are reflected in the record.”
  • Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Betsy DeVos announced that she would be abandoning her plan to consolidate federal student loan service providers—a plan that reportedly faced bipartisan opposition—saying the Education Department would instead focus on “starting afresh and pursuing a truly modern loan servicing environment.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reportedly welcomed the announcement, but added that continued oversight would be necessary to ensure any Education Department decisions on student loans “are good for the millions of struggling student loan borrowers.”
  • Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a measure that begins the process of making recreational marijuana available for purchase in Massachusetts. The new law sets July 2018 as the opening date for recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts, and raises the sales tax on marijuana from the 12 percent established by last year’s ballot initiative to 20 percent—17 percent in state sales tax and 3 percent in local sales tax.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Greg Ip argues that characterizations of President Trump as a “do-nothing president” are somewhat inaccurate. Ip concedes that, if legislative achievements are the benchmark of presidential activity, “do-nothing” may be an appropriate title. Still, Ip contends that the work of administrative departments and agencies is a necessary part of the benchmark, and that President Trump is on track to accomplish quite a bit through administrative bodies, though he notes that much of the action has been reversals of Obama-era policies and regulations.
  • Writing for The New York Times, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University offers an economics-based explanation of why health care policy is so complicated. Mankiw points to a number of factors, including consumers not knowing their health care needs, overconsumption by insured consumers, and adverse selection—in health care, adverse selection creates the phenomenon where only those with substantial health care needs buy insurance— to highlight health care policy’s complexity, before suggesting that the complexity of health care policy may be the only point on which those on opposite sides of the health care debate can agree.
  • Writing for The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell called Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the most dangerous man in the White House. Pointing to Mulvaney’s four votes against raising the debt ceiling during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives and his recent statement that Congress should not pass any legislation, including legislation to raise the debt ceiling, until the Affordable Care Act has been repealed, Rampell argues that Mulvaney has been “breathtakingly irresponsible with the creditworthiness of the United States.”