The White House State: ‘Regulatory Reform’ in Sheep’s Clothing (OMB Circular A-4)

From MasterResource

By Mark Krebs — April 13, 2023

“My strong first impression is that OMB Circular A-4 is particularly useful for more expediently advancing the administrative state’s ‘all of Government’ agenda to combat the ‘existential threat’ of anthropogenic global warming.”

Last Friday April 7thThe Hill reported:

The White House is [re]forming the country’s regulatory system, announcing a new executive order and guidance that experts say could be used to justify both more and stronger regulations. On Thursday, the White House released an executive order reducing the number of regulations that undergo a more rigorous White House review and promoting public participation from previously underrepresented groups at its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The Hill’s article, “White House Issues Reforms to the Regulatory Process,” quoted two experts from organizations that generally support the climate alarm/forced energy transformation side of the debate.

Billy Pizer, vice president for research and policy engagement at Resources for the Future … described the changes as a “pretty major overhaul.”

“It’s the most significant update for the U.S. government’s broad regulatory analysis policy since we’ve been doing regulatory analysis policy,” Pizer said. In particular, this could lead to both more regulations and regulations that are more protective. 

And from James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform:

It brings an entirely different way of thinking about the regulatory system. It does create more space for agencies to regulate more and…to [make] more protective regulations.

“They’ve sort of laid the groundwork to make it a big deal. Do you ever play with Legos? You sort of dump out the pieces. They’ve sort of dumped out the pieces. The question is: what are they going to build with it, if anything.”

The Washington Examiner‘s Daily on Energy (April 10th) published: How the OMB regulatory analysis changes will boost Biden’s climate agenda. It quoted a different perspective:

Chad Whiteman, vice president of environment and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said OMB’s proposal represents significant changes that are effectively putting a thumb on the scale and “ballooning the benefits” so the administration can justify much more stringent regulatory requirements.

In summary, there is a lot of information to unpack as to what OMB proposes and the implementation timeline thereof. However, we are well aware of OMB Circular A-4 as it presently stands and have started to review a new public review draft released on April 6th.


A revised A-4 will be used for a wide variety of regulatory purposes (like 2nd Amendment “reforms”); not just efforts to fast-track more environmental regulations.  However, these proposed changes are particularly employable for advancing the Biden Administration’s energy/environmental policies.    That said, my strong first impression is that OMB Circular A-4 is particularly useful for more expediently advancing the administrative state’s “all of Government” agenda to combat the “existential threat” of anthropogenic global warming. The proposal aims at (among other things):

  • Lower discount rates to boost life-cycle cost savings estimates of new regulations.
  • Authority to account for social cost of carbon (SCC) estimates that occur outside of the United States.
  • Increasing what constitutes a “major rule” (that requires more analytical scrutiny and transparency) from $100 million to $200 million per year of overall economic impacts.

Example: DOE in the Home

The U.S. Department of Energy is already using some of these advantages in ongoing appliance efficiency rulemakings. A case in point is DOE’s rulemaking for consumer cooking products. The following table, excerpted from DOE’s  “Technical Support Document” (TSD), illustrates how DOE is inflating its cost effectiveness justification by including SCC and nebulous health  improvements for cooking products.

When energy savings amounts are broken down to the individual consumer level, the dollar value appears to be negligible; in the range of a dollar or two per year for a gas range. According to CEI’s Ben Liberman’s draft comments:

Average household energy use for cooking is low to begin with, less than $35 per year for either electric or gas cooking. Given the modest overall energy use from cooking, it is not surprising that the estimated savings from the proposed rule are quite small at about $1.50 per year for a gas cooktop.   In retrospect, it is for good reason that the agency had previously declined to bother with an efficiency standard for cooking products.

However, as shown in the above tables, adding SCC and ostensible health benefits increased cost savings to values that are far less negligible. The question is whether such methodologies can be shown to defy the legislative intent of the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA). Adding another official discount rate, perhaps down to zero, would further inflate claimed cost effectiveness. (Note that mainstream environment advocates have wanted a zero discount rate for many years.) Perhaps they will finally get it now from Uncle Joe.

The good news (maybe) is there are supposed to be opportunities for public input.  Whether or not an official docket number is assigned to this is yet to be seen.  Without that, public comments may not be disclosed as they traditionally are via  

References for Executive Order & OMB Guidance

Appendix: Mike Solon on Circular A-4

Mike Solon of US Policy Strategies had these first impressions of Circular A-4:

OMB has proposed changes to “Circular A-4”, which gives guidance to agencies on how to perform regulatory analysis.  They will take public comments but are likely to adopt something very close to the proposal.  Three big changes will tip the scale toward activist government:

  • 1) Lowering the discount rate from 3% to 1.7% (the current value based on their proposed formula).  Going forward, it will be easier to impose large, certain front-loaded costs to achieve uncertain benefits in the distant future.
  • Magnifying costs and benefits borne/realized by lower income populations and geographic areas, on the theory that having fewer resources, they are disproportionately affected.  Arguably this is redistribution of wealth via regulation.
  • Assuming those affected by regulation are risk-averse rather than risk-neutral, which sounds like giving extra credit for making people feel better off, even if they aren’t actually better off.  

By executive order, Biden also changed the definition of “significant regulatory action”, raising the threshold for more stringent review from “an annual effect on the economy of $100 million”, to $200 million, adjusted for GDP growth going forward.

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April 13, 2023 2:26 pm

I’m guessing that Brandon enjoys screwing the sheep.

Reply to  Scissor
April 14, 2023 10:22 am

I believe he has possession of the Presidential wellies

April 13, 2023 2:26 pm

Don’t tell Chat how easy it is cheat in this administration. It may give itself loans and grants.

April 13, 2023 2:33 pm

Hopefully it will all unravel later this year.

story tip


High Energy Costs Threaten Climate Goals, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Warns – WSJ
High fossil-fuel prices could threaten the green-energy transition, sparking backlash to long-term climate goals, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm warned on Wednesday.
Regulators in recent months have begun fleshing out policies intended to transform entire industries by boosting electric vehicles, hydrogen production and more. At the same time, U.S. officials have called on oil-and-gas producers to increase their drilling activity in a bid to slow inflation through lower prices at the pump and smaller utility bills. 

Gold Prices Near Record as Investors Bet Inflation Is Here to Stay (

‘Dr. Doom’ Nouriel Roubini warns of painful stagflation caused by a new cold war with China and the ‘Balkanization’ of the global economy (

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  ResourceGuy
April 14, 2023 4:26 am

“High fossil-fuel prices could threaten the green-energy transition, sparking backlash to long-term climate goals…”

wow, they just figured that out?

John Oliver
April 13, 2023 3:03 pm

You never know where information about what this administration is really up to will show up. It could be blowing in the wind with the rest of the trash in the streets.

John Oliver
Reply to  John Oliver
April 13, 2023 5:01 pm

And while US s National security is totally tanking there is some hope. Just saw an article Kevin O Leary of Shark tank show wants to build a 14 billion $ refinery in US. -the free market will hopefully endure through the Biden / Green woke insanity and save us before it’s to late.

April 13, 2023 5:18 pm

People should remember that Biden promised, in his first public pronouncement as president, to make fighting climate change the number one priority for his government. So we shouldn’t be surprised that he is wrecking everything to push this agenda. What I don’t understand is why the Republicans stand by and let it happen. Where are the lawsuits, calls for action, public speeches to put a stop to this nonsense before it is to late?

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  HutchesHunches
April 13, 2023 7:25 pm

‘What I don’t understand is why the Republicans stand by and let it happen.’

The political Left, aka the Democrats, know that they favor unlimited government and collectivist action, and will subvert any and every opposing cultural and economic institution in order to achieve it. Unfortunately, we do not really have a political Right that favors limited government and individual action. Instead, we have political ‘conservatives’, aka the Republicans, who themselves are not necessarily opposed to big government, as long as they can maintain office and status by appearing to oppose the Left. If you’re looking for a metaphor to describe the political reality of the US, think of the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  HutchesHunches
April 14, 2023 4:29 am

Now that the political class is so entrenched that they often stay in office for decades, they lose their courage. Good reason to limit terms.

Ron Long
April 13, 2023 6:21 pm

This Federal Regulatory overreach is directly against the Tenth item in the Bill of Rights, attached to the US Constitution and made a part thereof. The Tenth reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the States. It is doubly bad because Brandon (and whatever un-elected person(s) is manipulating him) is in search of the total WOKENESS nirvana, known also as Hell on Earth. MAGA!

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Ron Long
April 13, 2023 7:45 pm

‘This Federal Regulatory overreach is directly against the Tenth item in the Bill of Rights…’

Prospective law students preparing to take the LSAT are often coached to disregard the ‘Tenth Amendment’ as a possible answer to any multiple choice question on the exam in order to improve their chances of guessing the correct answer from among the remaining choices.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Ron Long
April 14, 2023 4:30 am

‘in search of the total WOKENESS nirvana, known also as Hell on Earth. MAGA!”

we already have that here in Woke-achusetts

John Oliver
April 13, 2023 7:16 pm

We are really witnessing the absolute pennacle of hypocrisy by the left and the RINOs. The same libs that were so appalled by Vietnam Pent papers FBI Watergate abuse of civil liberties etc – they are just fine with the same stuff now that they and “their” people are doing it. The big T and and DeSantis are the few that are really taking all this on. I suspect we will find that the entire climate change narrative is even more corrupt than it already appears to be.

April 14, 2023 12:12 am

The White House is [re]forming the country’s regulatory system, announcing a new executive order and guidance that experts say could be used to justify both more and stronger regulations

Yep. The instinctive authoritarian nature and lust for power that attracts bureaucrats and other petty tyrants to government was hyperstimulated during COVID lockdowns and has become insatiable. Constitutional limits on powers? Never heard of them.

All of this is unconstitutional. Only Congress has authority to regulate and make laws as enumerated in Article I. The President and all the agencies under his direction (Article II) do not have that power. The 1946 Congress stupidly extended some of that power to the President’s agencies in the Administrative Procedure Act. The attempt to vastly expand regulatory power by Biden and the unelected Democrat-majority bureaucracy in Washington is the natural result of that folly. It will only worsen, subjecting the country to increasing and unaccountable tyranny, unless a conservative Congress and Supreme Court properly restrict regulatory power to Congress alone where our elected representatives debate and vote by majority to introduce regulations and face the consequences from their constituents if their votes go against their wishes.

There is no chance that any of these regulations would ever be enacted by Congress, which is why they vigorously pursue using agency bureaucracies to do it.

Last edited 1 month ago by stinkerp
April 14, 2023 4:56 am

More government gobbledegook that the average American can’t understand ergo they forget about it and placate themselves by believing this government regulation is a “good”thing.

April 14, 2023 7:48 am
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