Presidential Influence and Environmental Policy

By Robert A. Shanley; Bernard K. Johnpoll | Go to book overview
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analysis and later expanded its power over the regulatory process with E.O. 12498, issuing pronouncements on risk assessment under broad interpretations of the Constitution's Article II on executive power. Congressional oversight committees monitored OMB's application of cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment, but they were unwilling to grant the president and presidentially designated agencies, such as OMB and OSIP, any additional power by statute to promote or coordinate the benefits of risk assessment and risk comparison techniques in key regulatory agencies. Witnesses from the environmental, public health, labor, and public interest law network opposed the proposed "Risk Analysis and Demonstration Act of 1983" on the grounds that there are serious methodological problems with comparative risk assessment. They also maintained that the choice of any coordinating agency of risk demonstration studies should be in the hands of Congress, a more representative body, rather than with the president. Previous versions of the bill identified OMB or OSTP as possible coordinators of risk demonstration projects in federal regulatory agencies. Citing some of the abuses that had occurred in the regulatory process and political manipulation of scientific information in the first term of the Reagan Administration, opponents managed to kill the bill at the committee level. 37

The Reagan administrative presidency strategy and its ideological objectives involved the institutional presidency, particularly OMB, deeper into regulatory management and risk management at the expense of political conflict with congressional oversight committees and their political allies. OMB's powers were abused but also short-term gains were made, from the Administration's perspective. It is not likely, however, that the powers assumed under President Reagan's E.O. 12291 and E.O. 12498 will be substantially curbed by President Bush or by the Congress. But the longer-term danger in the heightened politicization of OMB, part of a trend since the Nixon Administration, has been the loss of its credibility and a growing distrust of its motives and activities by Congress. This legacy presents problems in obtaining the necessary accommodation with Congress to establish by statute a centralized regulatory review process as an appropriate exercise of presidential power, as well as the requisite cooperation and coordination of Congress and the presidency in dealing with risk-related issues.


NOTES
1.
Sheila Jasanoff, Risk and Political Culture ( New York. Russell Sage Foundation, 1986), 56.

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