Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), issued guidance encouraging agencies, including EPA, to carefully assess the cumulative economic costs and other impacts of their rules on small businesses and start-ups "where appropriate and feasible." This guidance (full details at www.white.gov) is effective immediately.

The guidance could help ease criticisms from Republicans, industry and agriculture that EPA is failing to consider the cumulative adverse economic impacts of its various regulations. Congressional Republicans have introduced several bills to require cumulative economic impacts.

Last September, the House passed H.R. 2401, known as the TRAIN Act, which would require a cumulative impact assessment of several key EPA rules, including the delay of two major air rules. Another bill, H.R. 3010, passed the House in December with the support of a number of Democrats. That bill would expand judicial review of rules, limit agencies' discretion to interpret statutes and uncertain science, and require cost/benefit analyses of health-based standards. The White House threatened to veto the latter bill if passed by the Senate.

Environmentalists and other activists were quick to criticize the policy for undermining the ability of agencies to execute their statutory mandates.