Regulatory Reform:

Agencies' Efforts to Eliminate and Revise Rules Yield Mixed Results

GGD-98-3: Published: Oct 2, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO updated and expanded its previous review of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) page elimination and revision initiative, focusing on whether: (1) agencies' reported page elimination totals took into account any pages added to the CFR during the same period; (2) agencies' CFR revision efforts would reduce regulatory burden; and (3) the administration has any mechanism in place for measuring burden reductions as a result of its CFR page elimination and revision initiatives. GAO limited the scope of its work on the first two objectives to four agencies: the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Transportation (DOT), the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

GAO noted that: (1) officials in each of the four agencies GAO reviewed said that the page elimination totals that their agencies reported to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) did not take into account the pages that their agencies had added to the CFR while the eliminations were taking place; (2) EPA and DOT estimated that they added more pages to the CFR than they removed during their page elimination initiatives; (3) HUD and OSHA, on the other hand, estimated that they deleted more pages than they added; (4) overall, when estimated page additions were counted, the 4 agencies' CFR sections decreased in size by about 926 pages--about 3 percent of the CFR pages at the start of the initiative, or about 17 percent of the amount reported to OIRA; (5) the agencies pointed out that pages are often added to the CFR because of statutory requirements or to clarify requirements placed on regulated entities and that pages are sometimes not eliminated at the request of those entities; (6) GAO's review indicated that about 40 percent of the 422 CFR revision actions in the 4 agencies would substantively reduce the burden felt by regulated entities as a result of such actions as eliminating paperwork requirements and providing compliance flexibility; (7) another 15 percent of the actions appeared to be minor burden reductions in that they seemed to make the regulations easier to find or to understand but would not change the underlying regulatory requirements or scope of applicability; (8) GAO concluded that about 27 percent of the CFR revision actions would have no effect on the burden felt by regulated entities and that about 8 percent could increase regulatory burden; (9) GAO could not determine what effect about 9 percent of the CFR revision actions would have on the regulated entities, either because the actions had multiple parts that potentially could offset each other or because the information available was unclear; (10) OIRA officials said that the administration has no mechanisms in place for measuring burden reductions as a result of the CFR page elimination and revision effort; and (11) however, they believe that the initiative is having a beneficial effect and also pointed out that the CFR page elimination and revision efforts are only part of a larger set of actions the administration is taking to reform the nation's regulatory system.

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