White House Admits 2012 Was Costliest for Regulation

In a long-awaited report to Congress on the costs and benefits of federal regulation, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) conceded 2012 was the costliest year ever for red tape. With $19.5 billion in regulatory costs, 2012 topped the next highest cost year by 57 percent. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The report, which was well overdue, also failed to record costs of six “economically significant” regulations. AAF’s tally has last year’s regulatory cost at $215 billion – still a pure addition of administration data.The OIRA report, which is traditionally released with the president’s Budget, was even more overdue than that – more than a week late.  This is actually an improvement from earlier delays.  Its final report from last year wasn’t released until last week, and the Unified Agenda of federal regulations from last spring wasn’t released at all.

One can’t blame the administration for not wanting to release this report. The cost drivers behind the $19.5 billion figure are hardly surprising to those who follow the regulatory world, but staggering nevertheless. EPA and the Department of Transportation implemented $17.5 billion of the total, followed by the Department of Health and Human Services, at $1 billion, with ObamaCare rules driving that total.

The actual rules that contributed to last year’s red tape binge also received plenty of attention: new CAFE rules ($8.8 billion), Utility MACT or the Air Toxics Rule ($8.2 billion), and new school lunch standards ($500 million).  Although the report might be an interesting read for those craving details on federal regulation, what’s not in the report is perhaps more intriguing.

For example, the White House included only 14 rules in its quantified figures. According to White House records, there were 45 major final rules published during the covered period, and 3,827 rules published in the Federal Register – the definition of cherry picking.

To be fair, the practice of selectively picking rules is common for an administration seeking to hide the costs of a regulatory agenda. However, the omission of six regulations where the regulatory text itself admitted it was “economically significant,” the jargon for a measure that imposes a $100 million impact on the economy, is troubling.

These six regulations all conceded they were economically significant and they all impose costs of more than $115 million, easily above the $100 million threshold. Combined, the White House excluded more than $1 billion of final rule costs and more than $1.4 billion of proposed rules. 



Economically Significant Regulations Omitted from OIRA Report



Paperwork Hours

Energy Standards for Dishwashers

$881 million


Water Standards for Florida

$632 million


Pilot Certification Requirements

$443 million


Changes to Implement Patent Reform

$288 million


Practice Before the Patent Trial Board

$213 million


Patent Reform: Revise Reexamination

$115 million


Totals: $2.5 billion and 1.5 million hours


For an administration that boasts transparency and “good government” principles, these omissions are troubling. It has become common practice to hide-the-ball on regulatory transparency. Last year, the American Bar Association even chastised the administration for failing to release its agenda of federal regulations on time. Shouldn’t businesses at least know when regulations are scheduled for release and how much they will cost?

In the end, the administration itself admits 2012 was the highest cost year ever for federal regulation, and that is with a mere one-third of one percent sample of all rules published. The reality is that costs were far higher.

Show commentsHide Comments

Related Articles