The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is a “super-powerful office” that reviews all major federal regulations of “non-independent federal agencies” on a range of issues, from workplace safety to water quality. OIRA and agency representatives regularly often meet with “outside stakeholders” to solicit opinions on regulations.
Vice President Cheney’s office has recently taken an interest in these meetings. In June, ThinkProgress noted that lobbyists for major polluters visited the White House to lobby against tighter smog standards. At that time, Clean Air Watch observed how unusual it was for a representative from Cheney’s office to attend that meeting:
Also sitting in on that meeting was a representative of Vice President Dick Cheney, long considered the go-to guy for big industries opposed to tougher environmental standards. … It’s pretty rare for someone with the Vice President to sit in on a meeting like this. It suggests that industry has really sought to elevate this politically.
This incident was not isolated. As OMB Watch notes, OIRA has “held more than 540 regulatory review meetings since February 2002.” Prior to Feb. 2007, Cheney’s office attended just three meetings; since that time, it has attended eight:
Based on the meetings a representative from OVP has attended, Cheney is focusing his attention on environmental and homeland security rules. The 11 meetings pertained to eight separate rulemakings, four of which were for EPA rules, and three of which were for DHS rules. The rulemakings are also those expected to have a significant impact on the economy, as the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, chemical security and ozone likely will.
In the past, Cheney has taken “full advantage of the president’s cluelessness” to control the administration’s environmental agenda and stop progress against global warming. For example, he stacked the Committee on Environmental Quality with industry heavyweights, killing Bush’s 2000 campaign promise to place caps on carbon emissions. In 2001, his infamous energy task force also ordered the EPA to “reconsider” a rule requiring stricter pollution controls on power and oil refinery plants.
Cheney likely has a sympathizer in current OIRA head Susan Dudley. In her previous job at the industry-backed Mercatus Center, Dudley opposed tougher smog standards, air bags in cars, and regulations for arsenic in drinking water.
UPDATE: Warming Law has more on whether these meetings addressed California’s waiver application.