By Kristen Hildreth
The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has released its Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. Commonly known as the “Unified Agenda,” the report is a semiannual update on the administration’s past, present and anticipated regulatory actions across the federal government.
The Unified Agenda keeps in line with the president’s executive order (EO) 13771 from Jan. 30, 2017, which directed that for every new significant federal regulation implemented, two must be rescinded, and for agencies to offset any new regulatory costs.
Under EO 12866, significant regulatory actions are most commonly defined as those that have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect, in a material way, the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or state, local, or tribal governments or communities.
Check out NCSL’s Info Alert for details on the Unified Agenda.
Among the highlights are:
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
USDA plans to finalize the establishment of a domestic hemp production program with an interim final rule expected by the end of the summer, an action required to implement provisions within the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, more commonly known as the Farm Bill.
Once complete, this information will be used to formulate regulations that include specific details for both federally regulated hemp production and a process for the submission of state and tribal plans to the USDA. Also tied to the Farm Bill, the administration plans to publish interim final rules for the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program this fall.
Department of Energy (DOE)
The DOE’s report includes a status update on several efficiency standards rulemakings, including walk-in freezers, consumer water heaters, fluorescent lamp ballasts and more. According to the agenda, a proposed rulemaking on many of those efficiency standards could come as early as September, with others not anticipated until 2020.
Department of the Interior (DOI)
The Unified Agenda indicates that the department is working to propose and finalize rules this spring governing offshore rig decommissioning and air quality control. Additionally, the administration extended its plans to replace previous standards for valuing federal oil, gas and coal. A federal court in California struck down the administration’s repeal of the previous standards and reinstated them late April.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to propose a rule changing how it revises and amends resource management plans to “streamline and clarify land use planning processes and improve coordination among Federal, State and local government entities” a move which the previous administration attempted, but was blocked via the Congressional Review Act.
Department of Transportation (DOT)
The report lists several actions it plans to take within the next year affecting drones. Notably, the Federal Aviation Administration has again pushed back the date it expects to publish a long-anticipated proposed rule on remote identification of unmanned aerial systems, more commonly known as UAS or drones. The agency is now looking to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in September, according to the latest Unified Agenda. Earlier this month, an FAA official told lawmakers that it had its sights set on July. Among the drone-related regulations is implementing UAS flight restrictions near critical infrastructure facilities; the safe and secure operations of small UAS; and the external marking requirement for small unmanned aircraft.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The agency will continue work regarding its replacement to the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) final rulemaking, which aimed to determine the scope of federal authority to regulate WOTUS and when states, local governments and others must seek federal permits to develop land because it contains WOTUS. The first step in the two-step process, the recodification of the definition of “waters of the United States,” that existed prior to the 2015 rule, is anticipated to be finalized in August, while a final rule for step two, the revised definition of “waters of the United States,” is expected in December. For more information on WOTUS, please read NCSL’s Info Alerts or blogs and follow the timeline of the rule.
Vital to states is the administration’s move to “clarify” state certification procedures under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Section 401 provides states the authority to certify, condition or deny any federal permits or licenses that may result in a discharge of pollutants to WOTUS within their borders. The administration is attempting to restrict that authority and plans not only to update or issue new guidance pertaining to implementation of 401, but also to begin the notice and comment period for changes to 401’s implementing regulations. For more information on the agency’s actions read NCSL’s Info Alert here, NCSL’s joint letters to the administration here and the EPA’s webpage here. Also along the CWA vein, the administration is moving ahead with the CWA 404 Assumption Update Regulation to provide “clarity on the issue of which waters are assumable,” to state, tribal and other stakeholders.
Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions
Kristen Hildreth is a policy specialist with NCSL's National Resources and Infrastructure Committee.