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Rep. Meadows Introduces Transportation Performance-based Regulatory Reform Bill

Today, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) introduced the Revamping American Infrastructure Act of 2017 (H.R. 2714), which aims to “facilitate the use of outcome-based performance standards by the Department of Transportation.” It is cosponsored by Reps. Jason Lewis (R-MN), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Ted Budd (R-NC), Dave Brat (R-VA), Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Gary Palmer (R-AL). Americans for Modern Transportation supports the bill.

Earlier this year, CEI published my report on the problems with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) approach to safety regulation, which too often results in prescriptive rules that forbid cheaper, superior alternative compliance—particularly with respect to freight rail safety regulation. In that report, I suggested that Congress require DOT to:

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of all rules, guidance, and enforcement policies;
  • Publish a report providing a complete inventory of the above policies; and
  • Develop a plan explaining how it plans to measure intended outcomes of future regulations, while allowing regulated entities to suggest how a performance-based rule might achieve the desired outcomes better than a prescriptive rule.

These recommendations were modeled on successful truck safety regulatory reforms enacted in 2015 under the surface transportation reauthorization, the FAST Act. Rep. Meadows’s bill would build on this by applying these performance-based reforms across the entire department.

The bill contains three main elements. First, it requires DOT to conduct a comprehensive review of existing regulations and determine which are prescriptive and, of those rules, which are able to be replaced by performance-based standards.

Second, the bill orders DOT to submit to Congress a report on the results of its comprehensive review that must include:

  • A list identifying each prescriptive rule that DOT determined was able to be replaced by a performance-based standard;
  • A plan to replace those prescriptive rules with performance-based standards;
  • A list of any prescriptive rules not contained in the aforementioned list; and
  • Legislative recommendations to facilitate further replacement of prescriptive rules.

Third, it codifies the directive of President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order 12866, Section 1(b)(8), which stipulates that, whenever possible, any new regulations promulgated by DOT shall be performance-based rather than prescriptive rules that specify the behavior or means of compliance regulated entities must adopt.

For too long, prescriptive rulemaking has led to regulatory outcomes that unnecessarily increase costs, inhibit innovation, and sometimes perversely reduce safety. We applaud Rep. Meadows’s leadership on this important regulatory reform issue.