Last Week in Regulation: TSCA Reform, Net Neutrality, and Retrospective Review
House Committee Approves TSCA Reform Bill. On May 14th, a House subcommittee unanimously approved (21-0) a bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The bill, sponsored by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), John Shimkus (R-IL), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), and Paul Tonko (D-NY), is likely to be approved by the full Committee in the next week or two, followed by consideration by the House of Representatives. The Senate may take up its own committee-approved bill to reform TSCA within the next few months. Both bills would provide EPA with more tools to gather information on chemicals in commerce, change the current safety standard to one that is solely health-based, and remove long-standing statutory impediments to control chemicals that pose an unacceptable risk. There are also significant differences. For example, the pace of EPA safety determinations would be faster under the House bill by focusing EPA attention on only the riskiest chemicals and by leveraging market forces to a greater extent.
ISPs Sue FCC over Net Neutrality. On May 13th, a coalition of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecom companies filed suit challenging the FCC’s net neutrality regulations (i.e., the Open Internet order), which were issued in March. The petitioners are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to block the new regulatory classification for Internet service (the new rules classify Internet service under the same regulatory regime as telephones). This marks the latest attempt by these companies to stop net neutrality regulations from taking effect on June 12. The central debate over so-called “net neutrality” regulation is whether the opportunity cost is too high. ISPs argue that the regulations will handcuff their ability to provide high-quality services to customers. Proponents believe such regulations are needed to prevent ISPs from discriminating against web content providers and negatively affecting consumer preferences.
Think Tank Criticizes White House Effort To Reform Regulation. On May 12th, the American Action Forum (AAF) issued an analysis of the Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce the burden of existing regulation, an initiative known as retrospective review. Each regulatory agency has developed a plan to review selected regulations to eliminate or modify requirements that no longer make sense. AAF reviewed the latest agency plans and concluded that instead of reducing burden, the Administration’s initiative will actually increase regulatory costs by nearly $3 billion per year on a net basis. In recent meetings with various interest groups on its initiative, Administration officials have set a goal of $20 billion in annual cost reductions by 2020, a figure seemingly at odds with the AAF analysis. The report raises serious questions about the transparency of the White House initiative.