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Susan Dudley Unfit to Head Regulatory Agency, Public Interest Groups Say

Sept. 12, 2006

Susan Dudley Unfit to Head Regulatory Agency, Public Interest Groups Say

Public Citizen and OMB Watch Report Details Dudley’s Radical Ideology, Close Ties to Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nomination of Susan Dudley as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) represents another attack by the Bush administration on the government’s ability to hold industry accountable and keep Americans safe, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and OMB Watch.

President Bush nominated Dudley in August to head OIRA, which is a part of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OIRA is little known to the public but has enormous power to weaken, delay and eliminate hard-won regulations designed to protect the public in the workplace, on the highways and in their homes. It reviews protections instituted by such health, safety and environmental agencies as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – everything from auto safety standards to limits on industrial chemicals and air and water pollutants.

In a telephone press conference conducted by Public Citizen, OMB Watch, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the AFL-CIO, the public interest groups outlined why Dudley is unfit to be the nation’s top regulatory czar. Throughout her career, Dudley has consistently fought against government safeguards and advocated a radical, hands-off approach to regulating corporations.

As director of regulatory studies at the industry-funded Mercatus Center, Dudley has sought to strike down countless environmental, health and safety rules. She has opposed such safeguards as the EPA’s attempts to keep arsenic out of drinking water and lower levels of disease-causing smog. She has questioned NHTSA’s life-saving air bag regulations and the Department of Transportation’s hours-of-service rules to keep sleep-deprived truck drivers off the roads. She has championed energy deregulation, which has led to skyrocketing prices and little consumer relief during record-setting heat waves.

“If confirmed as OIRA administrator, Dudley would continue her anti-regulatory agenda from a position with enormous power over federal health, safety and environmental protections,” said Robert Shull, Public Citizen’s deputy director for auto safety and regulatory policy, and a principal author of the report. “She would come to this office with a radical agenda that would destroy the federal government’s ability to protect the public. The public cannot afford to pay that price.”

The report details three main reasons why Dudley is wrong for OIRA: her ideological opposition to regulation, her support for radical policies that would impair public safeguards and her ties to industry. The Mercatus Center has been principally funded by companies with long records of pushing for deregulations, such as BP Amoco, Exxon Mobil Corporation, General Motors, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer and State Farm Insurance Companies, as well as with substantial money from the Koch family of Koch Industries.

“Dudley is little more than an industry factotum. This becomes important because her actions as the OIRA administrator would have severe national implications. Not since OIRA was created in 1980 has there been a less appropriate nominee,” said Gary D. Bass, OMB Watch executive director.

At Mercatus, Dudley has advocated radical policies such as regulatory sunsets, or mandatory expiration dates for all protective standards, which would force agencies to plea for the continuation of critical safeguards. She also supports regulation-stalling techniques that induce “paralysis by analysis,” such as wanting federal agencies to wait to impose rules until near-perfect estimates of the precise causes and effects of the hazards to be regulated are known. Collecting this secondary information can take years, during which the public will continue to be put at risk.

“It is apparent from her record that Dudley would set impossible standards that regulatory agencies could never satisfy,” reads the report. “An OIRA administrator with such an extreme ideological hostility to regulation would clearly have a devastating effect on safeguards needed to ensure the health and safety of the public and to protect the environment.”

“We’re talking about a person willing to expose tens of millions of Americans to arsenic in their drinking water and to claim that doing so is harmless,” NRDC Legislative Director Karen Wayland said. “Susan Dudley seems eager to throw out just about every regulation she sees, even those most vital to protecting public heath from basic poisons.”

“With Susan Dudley’s nomination, President Bush is proposing to install one of the nation’s leading anti-regulatory zealots as the gatekeeper for all regulatory safeguards,” said Peg Seminario, director of health and safety for the AFL-CIO. “Not only has Dudley opposed virtually all new worker safety and health protections, she has also strongly advocated rolling back legal rights and protections that workers have already gained.”

“Throughout this administration, OIRA has weakened already troubled agencies,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “If Dudley is confirmed by the Senate, she will further strip them of their ability to stand up to government secrecy, politicization and corporate interests. On behalf of the public, we are urging the Senate to reject her nomination.” 

The report is available at https://www.citizen.org/dudley.