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Policy

Streamlining Regulation

Government: Agencies offer plans for cutting costs, paperwork for businesses

by Cheryl Hogue
May 30, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 22

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Credit: Pete Souza/White House/Newscom
Obama talks with Sunstein (left) and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Credit: Pete Souza/White House/Newscom
Obama talks with Sunstein (left) and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The White House last week unveiled plans from 30 government agencies to cut the cost and paperwork needed to comply with federal regulations.

The plans are in response to President Barack Obama’s January directive to agencies to weed out outdated regulations and ensure that those on the books promote economic growth and job creation while protecting public health and welfare (C&EN, Jan. 24, page 10).

Cass R. Sunstein, Obama’s regulatory gatekeeper, says this first round of reforms will save hundreds of millions of dollars in annual compliance costs and tens of millions of hours in reporting burdens. The changes could ring up billions of dollars in savings for U.S. businesses in coming years, he adds.

Major themes in the plans are scaling back or eliminating government paperwork that businesses must fill out and switching from paper to electronic reporting.

For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan includes electronic online reporting for pesticide and commercial chemical makers to provide health and safety data that EPA requires. With this change, companies would no longer have to submit six paper copies of certain information under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Also, the Food & Drug Administration plans to look at revising regulations to allow electronic submission of clinical-study data for drug trials, postmarket reporting for drugs and biological products, and registration and listing of drugs and medical devices.

Meanwhile, the Departments of Commerce and State plan to lead a series of reforms to lower barriers to exports of U.S.-made products, Sunstein says. And an upcoming rule from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration will switch the U.S. to an international hazard communication system for chemicals used in the workplace. This single change will save businesses more than $500 million per year in regulatory costs, he says.

Jacob J. Lew, director of the White House Office of Management & Budget, says more reforms are coming. “This is not a one-time project. This is the beginning of what will become a new way of doing business. Every year, we’ll keep looking at the regulations that are on the books,” Lew says.

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