Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

I. Scary or enlightening…? Last July the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested comments to help develop an “implementation roadmap” for artificial intelligence (AI). The roadmap is being developed by a National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) Task Force. Comments were due October 1. OSTP received 84 responses from industry, academia and government stakeholders. The replies were made available last week and they form a fascinating body of work on a fascinating topic. Is AI, indeed, a neutral technology or a manifestation of the devil himself/herself/itelf? In its original notice OSTP writes that the goal of this initiative is “to democratize access to the cyberinfrastructure that fuels AI research and development, enabling all of America’s diverse AI researchers to fully participate in exploring innovative ideas for advancing AI, including communities, institutions, and regions that have been traditionally underserved.” Interestingly these comments are not part of a public docket, although OSTP made them publicly available; well, actually, somewhat available – they were sent to people who sent comments or who asked about this project. The point is the comments could be withdrawn from the public eye on a whim. You should read them now. Some bot somewhere may be programmed to make them just disappear. Oh, wait, Halloween was yesterday!

II. Scary or enlightening…? The Army Corps of Engineers and EPA announced new roundtable discussions regarding WOTUS – “waters of the United States.” WOTUS policy makes vaxxers and anti-vaxxers look like chums talking about canvas at the sailing club. And EPA and ACE are doing a good job to make the WOTUS waters worse. The agencies plan two more rulemakings: first, a “foundational rule” and then a second rule that builds on that foundational rule. Regarding the “roundtable discussion” this team must be staying up late memorizing Catch-22. The thinking seems almost, well, uh, artificial. To participate in the discussions, EPA/ACE will next announce a process whereby people can be nominated for one of ten regional roundtables. Naturally, there has to be “diverse perspectives” among the nominees. This process caught some Congressional attention. Rep. Graves, ranking member on the House T&I Committee, commented that “When announcing planned action on WOTUS, the agencies assured the public they would carry out a full and transparent input process. This roundtable process is anything but that. The agencies should abandon this scheme and utilize a more open and traditional process.” Awww c’mon, Rep.! Now they get to use that Enigma machine stored away down in the Smithsonian basement…!

* America the Beautiful. Are you even allowed to say that anymore? Luckily, yes, and NOAA announced its next steps on the recent “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” Report released in May, the work of several federal agencies. Big picture: the Report recommended conserving at least 30% of US lands and waters by 2030. The Report noted three threats: “disappearance of nature, climate change and inequitable access to the outdoors.” The Report further suggested six focus areas for early action. Now, NOAA is seeking public comments on how it should best move forward to conserve and restore “America’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.” NOAA seeks written comments, due by 12/28, and it will host two virtual public listening sessions this month.

Have a great Monday and a great week! And don’t worry about that scary guy at the top of the page. AI told me it’s all make believe…
Tom Ewing
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