Report: 1.5 Billion Hours of Regulatory Paperwork Added Since 2010

Executive Order promised to eliminate ‘excessively burdensome’ regulations

April 23, 2014

An extra 1.5 billion hours of paperwork are now needed to comply with federal regulations, despite President Barack Obama’s executive order that promised to eliminate "excessively burdensome" rules.

A new report released by the American Action Forum (AAF) on Wednesday evening analyzed each cabinet agency’s "retrospective review" of their regulations and found that costs to the economy increased by over $43.8 billion.

The reviews are required by Executive Order 13563, which was issued by President Barack Obama in January 2011. Agencies must assess major regulations and issue plans to modify "outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome" rules.

The AAF found in the latest reviews that paperwork hours would be lessened by 31.3 million hours, attributed mostly to proposals made by the Department of Transportation.

"Even though these reports contained paperwork reductions, the nation’s aggregate paperwork burden has continued to climb," wrote AAF Director of Regulatory Policy Sam Batkins, who authored the report. "In 2010, the nation’s total paperwork burden was 8.8 billion hours; today, it’s more than 10.3 billion hours, an increase of 1.5 billion hours, despite the attempt at regulatory reform."

"For perspective, it would take 786,000 individuals working full-time to complete the new paperwork added since 2010," he wrote.

Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Howard Shelanski said that the administration has achieved more than $10 billion in regulatory costs as a result of the executive order. However, the AAF found that two new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would cancel out those savings.

"EPA lists two rules that are hardly regulatory lookbacks: new fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and sulfur emissions standards for vehicles," the report said. "Combined, these two rules will impose more than $12.3 billion in annual costs, enough to easily eclipse the purported $10 billion in regulatory savings."

The report also notes that 15 regulations under Obamacare are listed as "retrospective," but add $5.9 billion in total costs and 11.4 million paperwork burden hours. "None of the ACA rulemakings cut costs, paperwork hours, or explain how they are designed to reduce redundancy," the report said.

The only "bright spot" AAF found was the Department of Transportation, whose retrospective review would reduce the agency’s total paperwork burden by 15 percent.

The DOT’s plan revises a regulation to allow truck drivers to "submit trip reports only after an incident, instead of every trip," to achieve an estimated savings of $1.7 billion a year and eliminate 46.6 million paperwork burden hours.

"Unfortunately, this example of an agency reviewing and updating past regulations is an outlier, and not the norm from an administration that wants to instill a ‘culture of retrospective review,’" the report said.

"Reviewing 442 regulations might sound like an accomplishment, until you examine each rule to find little, to no retrospective review," the report concluded. "On net, this latest round of reports only increases regulatory burdens, by an astounding $43.8 billion."

"Aside from a few DOT reforms, these retrospective measures aren’t retrospective and they don’t streamline, repeal, or modify redundant regulations," it said.