Bush's Anti-Regulation Czar. (Networks)

Article excerpt

SO HERE'S ANOTHER BORING abbreviation that's important to remember: OIRA. It stands for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Why is it important? Unpack what Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said shortly after President Bush took office. "We'd like to see OIRA reestablished as a gatekeeper." What passes through the gate are some of the nation's most important regulations.

During the Reagan and Bush Senior years, the office was active in stopping or seriously altering rules that agencies proposed. President Clinton weakened that role. Now, Bush Junior has handed the office over to John Graham, who seems to be doing the Chamber's bidding quite well.

OIRA was set up 22 years ago to exercise general oversight of federal regulations, and to provide additional research and guidance about the potential impact of laws. Since Graham took over, OIRA has done more overruling than overseeing, rejecting more than 20 regulations, a greater number than were rejected during the entire tenure of the Clinton administration. Graham and his team have also gutted many proposed environmental protections--such as Environmental Protection Agency rules to limit runoff at construction sites and protect fish from being chewed up in power-plant cooling systems--and forced the EPA to withdraw other proposals. He's promoted two industry-friendly toxicologists, Dennis Paustenbach and Roger McClellan, to serve as advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's environmental health panel, and has added his own scientific experts to his staff in his pursuit of expanding OIRA's authority. …