CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

Welcome to a special shutdown edition of CEI’s Battered Business Bureau. After setting a yearly high for rules (113) and topping 2,000 pages for just the third time all year, the first full week of the shutdown made for a very bare-bones Federal Register, with just six rules and 353 pages.

Remember, this is the 17th shutdown since current budgeting rules were adopted in 1976, so this shutdown is less an anomaly than it is business as usual. The relative peace that lasted from Bill Clinton’s second term until now is the real anomaly.

Most shutdowns follow a similar pattern. So far, this shutdown has, too. First, agencies publish as many rules as they can leading up to the shutdown—hence the inflated rule and page counts in recent weeks. When the shutdown begins, there is typically a two-day lag before the Federal Register slows down its rule and page counts. It then lies near-dormant for the duration of the shutdown, with just a slow trickle of rules until two to three business days after the shutdown ends. Agencies then make up for the lost time with a deluge of regulations. The longer the shutdown, the more intense the flood.

The point is that shutdowns have little, if any, net effect on the amount of regulation. Some rules are published a little earlier than planned, some are published a little bit later, and that’s about it. Something to keep in mind as the shutdown battle continues.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 6 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register. There were 113 new final rules the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every 28 hours.
  • All in all, 2,869 final rules have been published in the Federal Register this year.
  • If this keeps up, the total tally for 2013 will be 3,687 new final rules.
  • Last week, 353 new pages were added to the 2013 Federal Register, for a total of 62,090 pages.
  • At its current pace, the 2013 Federal Register will run 78,397 pages, which would be good for fifth all time – keep in mind, though, the light shutdown week artificially lowers this projection. The actual page count will likely be much closer to 80,000. The current record is 81,405 pages, set in 2010.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. No such rules were published last week, for a total of 34 so far in 2013.
  • The total estimated compliance costs of this year’s economically significant regulations ranges from $6.53 billion to $11.93 billion.
  • So far, 258 final rules that meet the broader definition of “significant” have been published in 2013.
  • So far this year, 549 final rules affect small business; 75 of them are significant rules.

Instead of the usual highlights from selected final rules, here are all of them, since there were only six:

  • The only significant rule is a big one – 275 pages worth of Basel III bank capital standards implementation. This rule alone counts for 78 percent of this week’s Federal Register page count. The Basel accords determine how much capital banks need to keep in reserve. The mathematical formulas involved are, shall we way, complex. Earlier Basel standards have proven devastatingly ineffective in keeping banks solvent, and the new Basel III will likely be no better.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued two rules for Alaskan Pollock fishing. One covers Area 620, the other covers Area 630.
  • The NOAA also issued rules for Gulf king mackerel and snappers and groupers.
  • The Coast Guard issued the week’s only other regulation. It established a temporary safety zone around a bridge in Galveston, Texas while it is being repaired.

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.