Transparency drives EPA’s historic shift on guidance documents

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency; CP staff

EPA has moved to establish consistent requirements for guidance document issuance. Officials envision a formal petition process for the public to request that the agency modify or withdraw such documents, and keep them accessible and transparent to the public.

“For the first time ever, EPA is proposing a rule that codifies procedures to ensure the public can engage in the development and review of agency guidance,” says Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Historically, EPA has issued many more guidance documents than most federal agencies. [This] action is a major step toward increasing transparency in processes and ensuring that EPA is not creating new regulatory obligations through guidance.”

The proposal abides President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13891, “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents.” The October 2019 directive compels EPA to limit documents’ scope to clarifying existing obligations, and refrain from using guidance as “a vehicle for implementing new, binding requirements on the public.”

“This is a big step toward major regulatory reform,” observes House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO-6). “EPA has been one of the most onerous regulatory agencies in the government, issuing more guidance documents than most other federal agencies. These documents are often produced without adequate public notice or input from the regulated community, conflict with one another, and get enforced based on the whims of an individual regional office. Worst of all, guidance has too often served as a Trojan Horse for backdoor regulatory efforts that go beyond the scope of Congress’ intent and existing law.”