Yesterday the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced the approval of a revision of a PHMSA information collection request supporting the Approvals program for hazardous materials. The revision was needed because of changes in reporting requirements for those seeking fireworks approvals included in the HM-257 final rule published in July, 2013.
According to the supporting data [.DOC download] submitted by PHMSA the new reporting requirements are expected to only affect 211 of the 11,074 Approvals applicants. The new requirements would result in an additional five minutes on each of the 24.5 (average) requests for approvals for each these applicants. This would increase the total hour burden estimate by 430 hours to 28,270 hours.
This is a totally unremarkable revision of a long-standing ICR and as such I would typically ignore this, especially considering that OIRA approved the ICR revision without change for the standard three years. What caught my attention, however, was the fact that the ICR revision was requested on May 29th, 2014. This completely unremarkable ICR revision took over a year to approve, even after OIRA had signed off on the data during the rulemaking process just 5 months before this request was submitted.
Short of a congressional investigation or a GAO audit (often a precursor to such an investigation) we will never know why this ICR approval took so long. It is, however, part of a long history of slow movement in OIRA on conducting approvals of what are supposed to simple administrative reviews of whether or not an Agency has dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s” in justifying collecting information from the public.
Many times we can clearly see that the delays are politically driven (see the still unapproved ICR for the CFATS personnel surety program), but that does not seem to be the situation here. While there were some objections in the fireworks community to some of the provisions of the HM-257 rulemaking, those controversies were effectively settled by the publication of the rule.
Perhaps it is time for somebody in Congress to start asking questions about the ICR approval process and the lengthy delays being experienced in the OIRA’s reviews.