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Policy

White House Drops Risk Assessment Plan

September 24, 2007 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 85, ISSUE 39

The White House last week abandoned its controversial attempt to set government-wide standards for risk assessments. Instead, its Office of Management & Budget (OMB) and Office of Science & Technology Policy reaffirmed principles established during the Clinton Administration for assessing and managing risks. A memo distributed to heads of federal agencies on Sept. 19 says the White House has decided not to finalize an OMB bulletin on risk assessment policy proposed in 2006. A National Research Council report released earlier this year said the proposal was "fundamentally flawed" and should be scrapped (C&EN, Jan. 29, page 32). The new White House memo describes how the Clinton Administration's risk analysis principles fit in with Bush Administration regulatory directives on peer review, quality of information produced by the government, and the science and economic documents used to justify new regulations, says Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy for the public interest group OMB Watch. Sally Katzen, who headed OMB's Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs during the Clinton Administration and oversaw development of the 1995 risk analysis principles, points out that the new memo lacks the caveats accompanying the originals, saying the principles were aspirational and not prescriptive for agencies.

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