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What They Are Saying: EPA Proposes First Ever Rule to Improve Transparency of Guidance

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WASHINGTON (May 19, 2020) — Today, as directed by President Trump’s Executive Order to promote transparency through improved agency guidance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its first-ever proposed rule to establish consistent requirements and procedures for the issuance of guidance documents. Here's what stakeholders and elected officials are saying:

Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee Chairman Senator James Lankford (OK): “I am grateful for the EPA’s action today to increase transparency and clarity of its guidance and regulatory process. Complying with environmental regulations—or trying to make heads or tails of guidance that seems like a regulation—has been a consistent issue raised to me by Oklahoma small businesses throughout my time in Congress. I was glad to see the Trump Administration take decisive action late last year by issuing Executive Order 13891 to clarify what agency guidance is and what it isn’t. I recently introduced the Guidance Clarity Act, which would clarify in law that federal agency guidance documents are not legally binding. Today’s action by the EPA to implement the President’s Executive Order is a step in the right direction for small businesses, but my bill would set this appropriate action into law. Overall, this is a good-government win that will reduce regulatory compliance issues for Oklahomans.”

Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Senator Roger Wicker (MS): “I appreciate President Trump’s and Administrator Wheeler’s commitment to regulatory reform and transparency. This proposed rule would ensure that the public is involved in every step of the decision making process for agency guidance.”

Senator Jim Inhofe (OK): “We all know previous administrations have abused the guidance process to initiate regulatory changes that they cannot achieve through the permissible regulatory process. Thankfully, the Trump administration continues to strive for transparency while cutting unnecessary red tape. This proposed rule by the EPA would establish clear requirements in issuing guidance documents. I have long fought for reform of our federal regulations and guidance transparency—I am glad to see Andrew Wheeler and President Trump taking action on this front.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV): “Improving the process for issuing regulatory guidance has been a widely discussed solution to cut bureaucratic red tape and boost our economy. I’m glad to see today’s decision by the EPA to allow more public input into the agency’s guidance documents. Doing so will give the public an even stronger voice in the regulatory process.”

Senator Thom Tillis (NC): “After successfully implementing regulatory reform efforts in North Carolina when I was Speaker of the House, I came to Congress to continue cutting red tape. Today’s announcement will do just that by bringing needed transparency and consistency to the federal regulatory process. I applaud President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for their leadership on this important issue. Together we can continue to improve and reform the regulatory process for our farmers, small businesses, and consumers.” 

Senator Steve Daines (MT): “Increasing transparency and accountability within the EPA is critical for Montana businesses, environment and way of life. It is important federal agencies allow for robust public participation and involvement when considering new directives and this new rule will help do just that. I’m glad to see the administration keep their promises on increasing public transparency and accountability.”

Senator Kevin Cramer (ND): “Administrator Wheeler’s proposal would make the EPA's process more clear and transparent, empowering the people rather than the bureaucracy. It aligns with President Trump’s Executive Order to curtail an overreaching federal government by clamping down on burdensome guidance documents which were not publicly vetted, but they are treated as law. I applaud the Administrator for being proactive, and I encourage the rest of the federal government and all interested stakeholders to fully engage in this process.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (OR-02), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Republican Leader John Shimkus (IL-15): “This announcement is terrific news for the EPA, our federal government, and most importantly, American taxpayers. The Trump Administration has made great strides in righting the wrongs of the previous administration by making our federal government more efficient, transparent, and accessible. For far too long, EPA circumvented the rulemaking process through its use of guidance documents, which often led to significant burdens on American communities, businesses, and workers. Guidance documents typically have not been subject to a fair and transparent process for public review and comment, such as the last administration’s Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, guidance. Today’s proposal creates more accountability and transparency in the guidance process, and we look forward to working with the Trump Administration to make sure the Executive Branch interprets and implements laws consistent with the intent of Congress and the will of the American people,” Walden and Shimkus said.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (MO-06): “This is a big step toward major regulatory reform at EPA. Throughout the years, the EPA has been one of the most onerous regulatory agencies in the government, issuing more guidance documents than most other federal agencies. These guidance documents are often produced without adequate public notice or input from the regulated community, conflict with one another, and get enforced based on the whims of an individual regional office.  Worst of all, guidance has too often served as a Trojan Horse for backdoor regulatory efforts that go beyond the scope of Congress’ intent and existing law. Americans deserve better than that, and this proposed rule will lead to a much more open and fair regulatory process. I commend Administrator Wheeler for working to reduce regulatory burdens that are unnecessary in the protection of our environment.”

Oversight and Government Reform Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Congressman James Comer (KY-01): “Today, EPA announced a proposed rule that will promote transparency surrounding its guidance documents. This proposed rule benefits all Americans by clarifying how and why the Agency puts forth guidance documents. EPA has already published 9,000 guidance documents online making it substantially easier for the public to access. I want to applaud Administrator Wheeler for continuing to implement President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda with this proposed rule.” 

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03): “Past Administrations have side-stepped the rule-making process and Congressional oversight by enforcing guidance as if it was rule of law, which it most certainly is not. I applaud President Trump’s efforts to reign in this abuse and thank the EPA for providing a much-needed increase in transparency.”

Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): “It is long overdue to bring transparency to the EPA which has traditionally engaged in abusive regulatory actions.  The new guidance rule will give our communities, businesses, tribes, and individuals direct engagement and a public role in the process of EPA guidance for the first time, bringing EPA enforcement out of the bureaucratic black box that often clouds regulatory actions and nefarious political games. This rule will put a stop to political appointees at EPA abusing the guidance process to impose new regulatory and compliance burdens on American businesses. Everyone should celebrate when openness, transparency, and public engagement win the fight against the bureaucracy of Washington D.C.”

Congressman Mark Walker (NC-06): “In order to instill public trust and confidence in our institutions, federal agencies owe it to the American people to adopt parameters ensuring more transparency in the regulatory guidance process. I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for proactively taking a major step towards reforming their regulatory rules in accordance with President Trump’s Executive Order, and look forward to continuing our fight in Congress for permanent requirements.”

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (AR-04): “If there’s anything that all government agencies could benefit from, it’s clearer guidelines and more transparency. These regulation reforms will make it easier for federal, state and local officials to carry out the EPA’s mission, and I applaud the administration for their proactive approach to these issues.”

Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03): “The Federal rulemaking process is designed to allow for input by the members of the public who will be most impacted by the rules. Unfortunately, too many federal agencies use guidance documents to circumvent this process, creating de facto regulations with no transparency. The EPA is taking appropriate action that will improve its transparency in the rulemaking process by better addressing and incorporating public concerns, ensuring agency guidance does not circumvent Congressional intent, and setting a commonsense precedent that should be followed by all federal agencies.”

Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03): “I am pleased the EPA is taking this important step to advance President Trump’s Executive Order on regulatory guidance. This proposed rule aims to prevent bureaucrats in Washington from enacting burdensome, costly, and ineffective regulations without input from the public. This effort will provide transparency and allow for members of the public, stakeholders, and regulated parties to be engaged in the process.”

Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04): "Transparency is key to ensuring any guidance issued by EPA is done soundly to protect our most precious resources and to benefit the American people. I applaud Administrator Wheeler for not only modernizing and streamlining EPA's regulations but for making these changes available to the public."

Congressman Bill Posey (FL-08): “Once again, through transparency and accountability, the President continues to deliver on his promise to reform the regulatory process to protect American jobs and lower the cost of red tape.”

Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05): “Regulatory reform is a significant pillar of President Trump’s promise to make our federal government more transparent and efficient. With today’s announcement, Arizonans will now have an easier opportunity to participate in the EPA’s guidance process. I applaud Administrator Wheeler for implementing this worthy, pro-growth policy.” 

North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest: “This proposed rule by the EPA is another way that the Trump Administration is bringing more transparency to the regulatory process. This rule will help to shed more light on how regulations are applied to our farmers and our small and large businesses across the country, and hopefully lead to a fairer application of those regulations.” 

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge: “President Trump and his administration have prioritized transparency and consistency from the EPA for the benefit of all Americans. I applaud today’s announcement of the proposed rule to establish consistent requirements and procedures for the issuance of guidance documents.” 

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry: “Through consistency and transparency, the Trump EPA is allowing for more input from the public and more cooperation from the private sector. This wonderful move by the President and his administration will go a long way toward helping human health and the environment.” 

Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Kenneth Wagner: “A formal process is so needed for dealing with EPA Guidance to allow public participation and ensure transparency. The process of determining what guidance applies, which is outdated, and if some exists at all is tedious and needlessly time consuming for regulators, industry and NGOs alike. Thanks to Administrator Wheeler for tackling this longstanding problem.”

Jefferson County (CO) Commissioner Libby Szabo, Jefferson County: “The American people deserve their government to be transparent and honest. This executive order will do just that. I want to applaud the President for taking this step in creating clear guidance the American people can count on.” 

Lisa B. Nelson, CEO, American Legislative Exchange Council: “President Trump’s Executive Order to promote transparency at the Environmental Protect Agency creates a clear framework for when the agency should create a new regulation versus clarify an existing one. Too often, agencies use guidance documents to create new policy instead of simply providing more information on current regulations. This action by the Trump Administration promotes transparency and protects the public from potential overreach by the administrative state.”

Myron Ebell, Director, Center for Energy and Environment, Competitive Enterprise Institute: “EPA's proposed rule setting procedures and standards for developing guidance documents is another huge step toward getting the out-of-control administrative state under control. We hope officials at other federal agencies will follow Administrator Andrew Wheeler's leadership on this critical initiative.”

Chad Whiteman, Vice President Environment and Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Chamber Global Energy Institute: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports EPA’s efforts to provide more transparency and fairness for all by formalizing a process in which the agency will develop and revise guidance documents. In recent years, the agency’s growing practice of regulating based on guidance documents that have not undergone formal notice and comment has created unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for stakeholders. This much needed reform will increase transparency by creating a systematic process for obtaining public input that will ensure a more level playing field for all interested parties, including businesses.”