The Hill’s Overnight Regulation

the hill 2 THE BIG STORIES:

Republicans pressed ahead Thursday with a controversial plan to slap the Obama administration with a regulatory budget that would restrain its rule-making abilities.

But Democrats warned it would derail important public protections.

“I think there is universal consensus that regulatory budgeting is important,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said during a hearing on the issue.

Similar to a traditional budget, a regulatory budget would place a cap on the cost of rules imposed by federal agencies.

Republicans say this would encourage federal agencies to prioritize the most important rules. But Democrats say it will hamper the government from issuing important rules that protect the environment, public health and consumers.

“There’s a concern that most Democrats share that a regulatory budget proposal might be just a guise for cutting back on regulations, whether they make sense or not,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said at the hearing.

The notion of establishing a regulatory budget emerged from years of struggle between the Obama administration and Republicans over rule after rule.

Price claimed regulations are spiraling out of control, with federal agencies issuing 3,410 rules in 2015, compared to only 115 laws passed by Congress.

The idea picked up steam last month when Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) included a regulatory budget in the GOP agenda, but any legislation passed this year would have a greater impact on future administrations than the current one.

Much of the debate is over how to measure the costs and benefits of regulations.

Yarmuth suggested it would be difficult to accurately measure the benefits of these rules, particularly those that protect people from the effects of climate change.

“Some of these things would be incredibly difficult to do in a structured process,” Yarmuth said.

“How do you deal with these benefits, which are intangible?” he asked. “There’s so many where there are social costs, human costs avoided. How do you accommodate that in any kind of budgetary process?”

The Obama administration rolled out new regulations Thursday to strengthen offshore oil and natural gas safety in the unique, unforgiving Arctic Ocean, The Hill’s Tim Cama reports.

It’s the first time that the federal government has put forth specific safety rules for the Arctic, which is vastly different from more developed offshore drilling areas such as the Gulf of Mexico.

The regulation from the Interior Department is meant in part to allay fears from environmentalists, Alaskan Native American tribes and others who believe drilling in the United States’s portion of the Arctic, off Alaska’s northern shore, is inherently risky, with a high chance of catastrophe.

The standards, proposed last year, come despite the fact that no company is using offshore rigs to drill in Arctic federal waters, no company has any imminent plans to drill, and numerous companies have abandoned their drilling rights leases. President Obama is considering prohibiting new drilling rights auctions through 2022.

Under the new rules, drillers will have to park backup drilling rigs nearby that are ready to drill a relief well in case of a well blowout, to prevent what happened in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Companies will need to have drilling and spill response plans that take into account specific Arctic conditions, be equipped to contain spills without using chemical dispersants, and be banned from drilling during icy seasons.

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