It may have been a short work week, but it was still a busy one in the world of regulation:
- 68 new final rules were published this week. That’s a new rule every 2 hours and 28 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All in all, exactly 500 final rules have been published in the Federal Register this year. If this keeps up, 3,327 new rules will hit the books in 2012.
- 1,545 new pages were added to the 2012 Federal Register this week, for a total of 11,367 pages. At this pace, the 2012 Federal Register will run 76,804 pages.
- There were 15 significant actions this week, as defined by Executive Order 12866. Of those, one is an “economically significant” final rule. That means it costs $100 million or more per year.
- So far this year, 84 final rules affect small businesses. 16 of them are significant rules.
- Economically significant rules published so far in 2012 cost at least $15.01 billion. Two of the nine rules do not have cost estimates. We assume that rules lacking this basic transparency measure cost the bare minimum of $100 million per year. The true cost is almost certainly higher.
Here are highlights from final rules that passed this week:
- The Small Business Administration is changing the size requirements for certain types of businesses to qualify as small. By raising some size limits, the SBA hopes to increase the amount of money that it transfers from taxpayers to private businesses.
- The EPA issued a 123-page final rule designating and revising critical habitats for two types of minnow, each measuring less than 3 inches in length.
- The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has revised its fireworks approval policy.
- We dare you to read all the way through this regulation that was published today to implement part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill.
For more data, updated daily, go to TenThousandCommandments.com.
Have a listen here.
What is the single most expensive regulation of all time? Energy Policy Analyst William Yeatman has one candidate: the EPA’s proposal to regulate mercury emissions from coal-powered plants. If it passes, the regulation would cost at least ten billion dollars per year to benefit a very small group of people: pregnant women who have subsistence-level income, and eat mostly large fish caught in inland freshwater bodies.
Have a listen here.
Energy Policy Analyst William Yeatman tells the story of how the EPA is forcing a power plant in New Mexico to install $370 million worth of equipment to improve visibility in a nearby park. Peer-reviewed research says the visibility improvement has a 35 percent chance of being perceptible to the human eye. New Mexican electricity consumers, meanwhile, will be able to perceive their bills going up by an average of $82 per year.
One of the major developments in regulation over the last thirty years has been the rise of cost-benefit analysis. At first, agencies squirmed and resisted. But then they realized something: they’re in charge of their own accounting. It’s not an independent audit. There’s no third-party involved. An agency is free to use its own standards and its own measures when calculating its own regulatory costs and benefits.
When it’s that easy to game the system, of course agencies are going to lowball their costs and highball their benefits. This is on full display in the Office of Management and Budget’s pithily titled “Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local, and Tribal Entities.” (link goes to PDF)
On page 13 of the report, Table 1-1 lists cost-benefit numbers for selected agencies for their major rules (costing $100 million or more) over the last ten years. It can be hard to quantify costs with precision, so agencies typically report a range estimate. EPA, for example, estimates that its major rules cost from $23.3 billion to $28.5 billion over the last decade.
Benefits are much trickier to calculate. EPA estimates that its major rules have had benefits of $81.8 billion to $550.7 billion – a range of nearly a factor of 7. They might as well say they have no idea. Why such a large range? Because EPA is trying to put dollar figures on items such as its air quality rules lowering the number of premature deaths. To do that, they have to pull numbers out of thin air.
Remember, these estimates don’t come from an independent third party. They come from EPA itself. There is a conflict of interest here. EPA wants to maximize its budget and its activities. The more beneficial its regulations appear, the more of them they can issue without too much pushback. So when it comes to putting dollar values on things that aren’t quantifiable, EPA has an incentive to pick the highest numbers it can.
That’s why agencies shouldn’t try to calculate their own regulations’ benefits. After all, nobody claims the tax burden is negative because the benefits those tax dollars confer outweigh their cost. It’s easy to calculate how much people pay in taxes. It’s also fairly easy to calculate how much regulations cost. But the fudge factor in benefit calculations is so high – and so prone to abuse – that it’s literally impossible to come up with an honest number. If it were possible, maybe EPA’s benefit range would be tighter than a factor of 7.
Have a listen here.
Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s regulatory czar, announced today that the administration intends to repeal regulations from 30 different agencies. CEI Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray thinks this is a good step, though a small one. He estimates today’s proposal would save about $1.5 billion, which is one-tenth of one percent of the $1.75 trillion total burden of federal regulation.
The EPA recommends setting your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. But OSHA recommends setting it to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Why the difference?
“If you turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit; you will cut your water-heating costs by 6-10 percent,” says EPA. Doing so also uses less energy.
But 120 degrees is not hot enough to kill the Legionella pneumophila bacteria. Legionnaire’s disease causes both flu-like and pneumonia-like symptoms. The disease is most often caught by inhaling the spiral-shaped bacteria via water mist, such as in the shower or near a lake or stream. That’s why OSHA recommends setting your water heater hot enough to kill the bacterium – 140 degrees.
Legionnaire’s disease got its name when the Pennsylvania American Legion celebrated America’s 1976 bicentennial at a hotel with contaminated water. More than 200 people were treated for pneumonia. 34 died. The newly discovered Legionella pneumophila bacteria turned out to be the cause. That and other bacteria are why OSHA recommends 140 degrees.
EPA and OSHA are free to publish all the recommendations they want. But hopefully they won’t impose one standard or other on the entire country. One is expensive; the other would kill people.
Fortunately, you are still free to set your water heater how you choose. If you place a high value on saving money and energy, and you have your health, 120 degrees is the way to go. But if you are elderly or infirm, or you have children in your household, 140 degrees is probably better for you. When it comes to your water heater, you know best. Hopefully OSHA and EPA will continue to recognize that.
(via Sam Kazman)
Posted in Regulation of the Day, The New Religion
Tagged american legion, bicentennial, energy, epa, Legionella pneumophila, legionnaire's disease, OSHA, regulation, Regulation of the Day, water heaters
The Pentagon’s official brownie recipe is 26 pages long. If you don’t care to read document MIL-C-44072C in its entirety, here are some highlights:
-The water used in this recipe must adhere to EPA drinking water regulations.
-The eggs must comply with USDA “Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59).”
-The brownies must also comply with rules and standards from HHS, The American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC), the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC), and the National Academy of Sciences’ Food Chemicals Codex.
-The coating must be exactly right:
3.3.5 Brownie coating. The brownies shall be completely enrobed with a continuous uniform chocolate coating (see 3.2.14) in an amount which shall be not less than 29 percent by weight of the finished product.
-Like pecans on your brownies?
18.104.22.168 Nuts, pecans, shelled. Shelled pecan pieces shall be of the small piece size classification, shall be of a light color, and shall be U.S. Grade No. 1 Pieces of the U.S. Standards for Grades of Shelled Pecans. A minimum of 90 percent, by weight, of the pieces shall pass through a 4/16-inch diameter round hole screen and not more than 2 percent, by weight, shall pass through a 2/16-inch diameter round hole screen. The shelled pecans shall be coated with an approved food grade antioxidant and shall be of the latest season’s crop.
And so on.
By contrast, delicious recipes from allrecipes.com and cooking.com are less than a page each.
UPDATE: Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward has more; her post was picked up by Fark, too. The comment thread is pretty entertaining.
Posted in Regulation of the Day
Tagged aacc, allrecipes.com, aoac, aocs, astm, brownie recipe, brownie recipes, cfr, code of federal regulations, cooking.com, epa, food, food chemicals codex, nas, pentagon, recipes, regulation, Regulation of the Day, usda