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Regulatory onslaught

Barack Obama’s time in office winds down, but our regulator in chief remains a busy man. His administration is in the throes of unleashing a last-minute barrage of rules and edicts as the president heads out the door.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly said he would make it a priority to dial back the federal regulatory state. He’ll have pages and pages of meddlesome mandates from which to choose.

The American Action Forum reports that the Obama administration has produced more than 600 major regulations — those estimated to cost more than $100 million apiece — in the past eight years. That’s a record for any one chief executive.

But the president isn’t finished. There are upward of 98 additional regulations currently under review at the White House that could go into effect before Mr. Trump takes office, 17 of which are estimated to exceed that $100 million mark.

For instance, the Environment Protection Agency is working on new oil and gas regulations and is putting the finishing touches on rules for the nation’s ethanol mandate and renewable fuel blending requirements. It is also pushing ahead with rules related to implementation of its Clean Power Plan that will affect energy producers.

And it’s doing all of it in a huge hurry. “We’re running — not walking — through the finish line of President Obama’s presidency,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in a letter to agency employees the day after the election.

This despite the fact that almost half of the states — not including Nevada — joined a lawsuit opposing the Clean Power Plan and leading the U.S. Supreme Court in February to stay enforcement of the proposal until pending legal challenges play out.

One potential saving grace is the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that Republicans could use to reject any regulations they oppose. Once Mr. Trump takes office, the law will allow Congress to use simple majority votes to repeal any and all rules that any agency has finalized since last May 30. Agencies will also be forbidden to enact any regulation that is “substantially the same.” Republicans are also pushing for legislation that would make that tool even more powerful by allowing Congress to repeal batches of regulations instead of acting on one provision at a time.

Mr. Trump has vowed to cancel “all illegal and overreaching executive orders,” and get rid of “every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs.” He’ll have lots of work to do.

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