Congress restored some of its cuts, the agency's real operating budget, excluding funding for sewage construction and Superfund operations, stayed at pre-1980 levels. 34 The president's strategy wreaked considerable damage upon EPAs' personnel resources and its key operating and research programs. After 1983 the tide turned; top-level officials at EPA were fired or resigned. The White House abandoned the Cabinet Council system and disbanded the President's Task Force on Regulatory Relief. Congressional investigations and oversight hearings and lawsuits filed by environmental groups placed the Administration increasingly on the defensive. EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus and his successor Lee Thomas steered a more independent course for the agency from undue White House pressure for the remainder of the Reagan presidency.
In Reagan's second term some key environmental laws were reauthorized over White House opposition, including the Clean Water Act, which Reagan vetoed, and the Superfund law. The principal restriction on the revival of environmental and other domestic policy programs remained the deficit problem, which the Administration and Congress had drastically enlarged in Reagan's first term. In 1985 the White House expanded its regulatory oversight system with E.O. 12498, requiring agencies to submit their proposed annual regulatory agendas in line with presidential priorities when permitted by law. Congress finally managed to make the regulatory over- sight system established under E.O. 12291 more open to public view.
During the waning years of the Reagan presidency, however, the Administration's centralized clearance and review of agency information requests under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 and E.O. 12291, requiring cost-benefit procedures for proposed agency regulations, still exercised significant influence over environmental agencies. The following chapter traces the evolution of the centralized review system of agency information requests under the Paperwork Reduction Act from the Carter to the Reagan Administration. It also examines the impact of the Reagan administrative presidency strategy on agency information collection and statistical policy, with special reference to environmentally related programs.