Friday, January 12, 2007

NRC Trashes OMB's January 2006 Risk Assessment Guidelines

The Bush Administration will rework OMB's controversial risk assessment proposal after the National Research Council expert panel reviewing the proposal called the approach "fundamentally flawed." NRC Report on OMB Risk Assessment Guidelines.  The January 2006 proposed risk assessment technical guidelines  were developed by former OIRA director John Graham to improve federal risk assessments, which OMB criticized in the cases of dioxin, mercury, perchlorate, and mad cow disease.

The proposal generated substantial public comment over the last year.  Industry supported the proposal.  Public health experts and  environmental groups contended that the guidelines would prevent government agencies from regulating health hazards by setting technical risk assessment standards that were difficult -- or even impossible -- to meet. 

OMB submitted the proposal to the National Research Council for review.  According John Ahearne, chair of the NRC review committee, the committee decided that the proposal was broken beyond repair.  It contained a confusing, overly broad definition of risk assessment, omitted crucial aspects of risk assessment such as how to handle absence of adequate information and assumed sufficient data would be readily available.  And, more fundamentally, OMB failed to demonstrate that costly changes in the federal risk assessment process were necessary.  The 18-person NRC committee unanimously agreed that OMB should withdraw the January 2006 proposed guidelines. NRC Executive Summary

RegWatch, rejoiced yesterday, with the following post:

Nation's Top Scientists Strongly Reject OMB's Regulatory Guidance

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This morning, the National Academy of Sciences rejected the White House Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Proposed Risk Assessment Bulletin. OMB charged NAS with the task of peer-reviewing the bulletin, and NAS issued a stinging rebuke.
The Bulletin calls for an overly standardized method across all agencies of assessing the potential risks of regulatory action. No matter if the issue is the environment, consumer products, or massive buildings and infrastructure, the framework would be the same.

NAS cites concerns that OMB is overstepping its bounds in suggesting this restrictive framework, and that micromanaging the ways in which agencies go about their business stymies the expertise within those agencies. Ultimately, NAS smartly concludes that this one-size-fits-all approach is unrealistic and would not jibe well with scientific and technological findings:

We began our review of the draft bulletin thinking we would only be recommending changes, but the more we dug into it, the more we realized that from a scientific and technical standpoint, it should be withdrawn altogether.

OMB has called off the Bulletin for now. Reg Watch revels in sound science trumping politics this time around.

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Read the NAS news release and report
Read OMB Watch's comments on the Proposed Risk Assessment Bulletin.

  Read more about how the Bulletin would lead to dangerous deregulations.

Posted by Matt Madia


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