White House acting chief regulatory officer resigns

Sharon Block, President Biden’s chief regulatory officer, is the latest White House official to announce his departure.

A seasoned labor policy expert and former Harvard law professor, Block is leaving the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the White House confirmed this morning. She has been running the office on an interim basis since the beginning of the administration.

“Under Sharon’s leadership, OIRA has played a critical role in advancing the President’s agenda – from spurring our historic economic recovery, to tackling the pandemic, to tackling the climate crisis and promoting equity,” said Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“From day one, Sharon’s breadth of experience and vast expertise have been invaluable to the OMB and the Biden administration, and we are grateful for her dedicated leadership and willingness to serve at this critical time in the history of our country,” said Young, who appointed president last year to continue leading the OMB.

The OIRA is a powerful White House office that plays a key role in shaping Biden’s climate and environmental agenda. Desk officers review and coordinate with agency officials hundreds of federal rules and guidance documents, as well as other government correspondence.

Block’s appointment as interim administrator has been welcomed by progressives, who have long lobbied the federal government to take a more aggressive approach to rulemaking, including giving more weight to marginalized communities and less to corporate interests.

But Biden has not named anyone to lead the OIRA for the long term, raising concern among reformers, who also wondered what happened to the president’s early commitment to modernizing the regulatory process (green wireJanuary 21, 2021).

Progressives, who have grown accustomed to OIRA as a place where the rules are watered down, have been encouraged by some of the office’s actions. For example, documents show that OIRA pushed the EPA to tighten its clean car rule (climate wireJanuary 13).

“There have been indications that Sharon has even brought something of a culture change to OIRA,” said James Goodwin, a policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform.

Adam White, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said it’s hard to judge Block’s first year, given how little is known about it. He said observers will judge OIRA based on the pending rules this year.

Goodwin agreed. “We are now heading into a tough election year,” he said, “and regulation will probably be one of the big fights to come.”

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