Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

John D. Graham: Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Graham, 48, runs a powerful department within the Office of Management and Budget that acts as a gatekeeper for the Bush administration. Its goal: to ensure that regulations and scientific analyses proposed by federal agencies—from the EPA to the Department of Transportation—are in tune with the president's agenda. A strict believer in weighing the costs of regulations against their benefits to society, Graham can demand changes to any proposed rule. If the changes aren't made, chances are, it won't go into effect.

Graham has used his clout to weaken such rules as a 2002 EPA proposal that would have toughened emission standards for snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles. And after meeting with steel-industry representatives in 2001, his office convinced the EPA to remove manganese—a steel-production ingredient that's toxic at high levels—from its list of hazardous substances. Every fall, Graham also publishes what critics call "the hit list": a report focusing on regulations—hundreds of which concern the environment—that industries and other parties want to see reformed or eliminated.

Graham's prowess in these matters is long-standing. From 1989 to 2001, the Pittsburgh native was the founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, an academic research center that has received support from some of the nation's largest corporations, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

SOUND BITE: "Graham's work has . . . demonstrated a remarkable congruency with the interests of regulated industries," read a statement by 53 academics who opposed Graham's 2001 nomination to head the OIRA. His research, the signers added, shows a "willingness to override health, safety, environmental, civil rights, and other social goals in applying crude cost-benefit tools far past the point at which they can be justified."

NEXT UP: Graham plans to impose a uniform "peer review" analysis on all major federal scientific studies. Critics claim this could gum up the system and increase the sway of industry-funded scientists over regulations.

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