White House deregulation push clears out hundreds of proposed rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said Thursday it had withdrawn or removed from active consideration more than 800 proposed regulations that were never finalized during the Obama administration as it works to shrink the federal government’s regulatory footprint.

U.S. President Donald trump speaks during a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans to discuss healthcare at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In a report, the Trump administration said it had withdrawn 469 planned actions that had been part of the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda published last fall. Officials also reconsidered 391 active regulatory proceedings by reclassifying them as long-term or inactive “allowing for further careful review,” the White House said.

The steps to eliminate regulations makes good on a much-repeated Trump campaign promise to promote business-friendly policies. Investors have anticipated the action, helping to push share prices higher on hopes that fewer regulations will boost business growth and lead to higher corporate profits.

The Trump administration has identified nearly 300 regulations related to energy production and environmental protection it plans to rescind, review or delay across three agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior and Energy Departments.

Trump had identified several of the regulations as targets in his March executive orders on energy, but they will now undergo a formal rulemaking process to be rescinded or revised.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the administration was addressing “that slow cancer that can come from regulatory burdens that we put on our people.”

In February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to place “regulatory reform” task forces and officers within federal agencies in what may be the most far-reaching effort to pare back U.S. red tape in recent decades.

Trump has vowed a sweeping cut in U.S. regulations and previously ordered agencies to repeal two rules for every new one adopted.

The Interior Department is reviewing an Obama-era rule that directed companies to reduce venting and flaring and methane leaks from oil and gas production on federal and tribal land, according to a White House semi-annual government-wide regulation report.

Representatives of the oil and gas industry cheered.

“We just got through eight years of a regulatory onslaught, aimed at curtailing oil and gas production. So we are very supportive of the administration’s efforts to roll back regulation,” said Kathleen Sgamma, head of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in Western states.

She said membership was particularly pleased about the effort to repeal the methane rule, which the industry estimated would have cost about $50,000 per well. Methane is one of the gases scientists say is driving global climate change.

The U.S. Transportation Department said it would review a number of Obama administration proposals that were close to being finalized including making automobile event data recorders mandatory, requiring sounds for electric cars and updating some crash test dummy standards.

The government also said it does not plan to complete a number of airline-related regulatory actions within the next year, including new rules required by Congress generally requiring quick automated refunds for any baggage fees when checked luggage is not delivered.

The Energy Department listed dozens of energy efficiency standards for commercial and household appliances that it would review.

The White House said the regulatory agenda “represents the beginning of fundamental regulatory reform and a reorientation toward reducing unnecessary regulatory burden on the American people.”

But some condemned the plan.

“Six months into the administration, the only accomplishments the president has had is to rollback, delay and rescind science-based safeguards,” said Yogin Kothari of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Today’s release of the regulatory agenda confirms just as much. It continues to perpetuate a false narrative that regulations only have costs and no benefits.”

Among the labeling requirements pushed back are Agriculture Department rules regarding production labeling on “natural” for meat and poultry as well as the bioengineering disclosure standard.

The regulatory agenda calls for the U.S. Labor Department to rescind an Obama-era rule that prohibits restaurants and bars from forcing servers to share their tips with untipped employees such as cooks and dishwashers. That 2011 tip-pooling regulation is also the subject of a legal challenge by the National Restaurant Association, which has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the rule.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Additional reporting by Timothy Garnder and Robert Iafolla in Washington, Chris Prentice and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Chris Sanders and Leslie Adler