Surprise rollback: 500 regulations on chopping block, savings could top $12b

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Hundreds of new federal rules and regulations and those on the books for years are now under review and may be junked under a “look-back” program President Obama created to offer businesses relief from costly and burdensome rules that just don't work.

Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said that more than 500 regulations are being reviewed and reconsidered. She said the program is “something that has never happened before, which is called ‘regulatory look-back,' e.g. what can you undo versus what can you add.”

After regulations are tried out, she said agencies and departments are asked, “Can you go back and look at the things you think there might be contention on?”

For administration critics, the look-back program may be a surprise because most media reports--and critics--have focused instead on new regulations coming out of the adminsistration. In fact, the look-back effort started in 2011 has had several splashy revisions, such as when the Transportation Department last August killed a costly paperwork rule tying up truck drivers. DOT estimated the savings at a whopping $1.7 billion.

“I don’t think people understand or know that the idea of looking at things to take off is also something that we are working. I think most people focus on the regulations as they happen,” Burwell said. She said the lookback effort began in 2011.

Most of the regulations from federal agencies are small potatoes. But the administration has indicated that overall, the savings could be close to $12 billion.

“The president obviously thinks this is important,” she said. “As we do our regulating, we always do consider the cost-benefit of them. That’s a part of an issue that we know is important to the business community as we think through our rule-making,” she said at a briefing late last week.

Still, nobody is suggesting a cooling-off of new regulations being issued by the administration. Burwell, for example, said that the “pace” of issuance won’t change, though she explained that more than normal were pushed through last year because of a “backlog.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at