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SBA office guided by big business, say reports

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An office designed to advocate for the protection of small businesses has routinely worked against health and safety regulations despite lacking the relevant scientific expertise or a clear benefit for small businesses, say two reports.

The studies, both released Tuesday, from the Center for Effective Government (.pdf) and the Center for Progressive Reform (.pdf) say that the Small Business Association's Office of Advocacy is a largely unaccountable office whose comments carry a heavy weight because it was created to ensure federal rules take small business needs into account.

The report from CPR says the office is a highly influential player in the federal regulatory system that often works against consumer, workplace and health protections developed by other federal agencies.

When reviewing an Environmental Protection Agency proposed rule on limiting air pollutants from power plants, the CPR report says the SBA office argued for scaled-back rules that provide no small business benefits. CPR contents the stricter rules the office spoke out against would actually help small businesses by improving the market for equipment to control and monitor pollution.

Both reports say Advocacy wanted regulations that would not allow for the monitoring of toxins like arsenic, lead and formaldehyde, likely violations of the Clean Air Act. "By its own admission, Advocacy lacks the scientific expertise to evaluate the merits of such assessments," says the CEG report.

The CEG report says office comments on the cancer risks of chemicals like formaldehyde that "relied almost exclusively on talking points provided by trade associations dominated by big chemical companies."

The reports ask Congress to change Advocacy's goal to promote competitiveness instead of reducing regulatory impacts and ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate Advocacy for improper influence and for holding meetings with trade association representatives and lobbyists where minutes are kept secret despite appearing to inform Advocacy's policy decisions.

For more:
- download the CEG report (.pdf)
- download the CPR report (.pdf)

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