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Reducing Burden of Costly Government Regulations

February 19, 2014
By U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

There is a need for sensible government regulations that keep Americans healthy and workers safe. Unfortunately, too often regulators overreach and impose regulations that unnecessarily kill jobs and undermine entire industries. Recent EPA regulations on coal threaten to do just that, serving as a reminder of the critical need to reform the federal regulatory process.

Recently, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency issued a series of new rules that essentially place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants unless they install a technology that many experts say is not ready for prime time - carbon capture and storage (CCS). These experts believe that the advances needed to overcome technical and economic obstacles preventing the effective use of CCS technology could be decades away.

According to the Energy Information Administration, coal is responsible for 40 percent of U.S. electricity and 71 percent of the power generated in Ohio. Ohio has already lost 12 coal-fired power plants over the past two years. If plans for new coal plants are mothballed, households and businesses will be forced to rely on fewer sources of electricity, and we all can expect to see the price of electricity rise dramatically.

Unfortunately, coal is not alone. The story of expensive and destructive regulations imposed on job creators has been repeated across industries. Good regulations are necessary for our economy to function. Bad regulations can bring our economy to a grinding halt. And right now, government red tape is tying up too many jobs.

The United States government now issues nearly 4,000 new rules and regulations every year. Those regulations are getting even more expensive. According to a recent report from the Office of Management and Budget, the costs of regulations issued in 2012 exceeded the costs of all regulations issued in the entire first terms of Presidents Clinton and Bush, combined.

Time after time, small business owners and job creators I meet across Ohio have told me that overregulation is holding them back. We can do better. I've introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act - bipartisan legislation that modernizes administrative lawmaking by strengthening cost-benefit analysis for all new agency regulations, improving the rulemaking process, and providing a more rigorous examination of the data underlying the most expensive rules.

Our bill opens the regulatory process to greater transparency by inviting early public participation on major rules with an economic cost of $100 million or more per year and requiring agencies to disclose the data they rely upon. It also would improve the quality of new rules by ensuring that agencies use the best available scientific, economic, and technical data to justify and craft regulations.

The bill would also require agencies to follow a more evidence-based approach in crafting rules that will cost more than $1 billion annually. These high-impact rules are relatively rare - the White House identified seven in development last year - but the cost of getting them wrong is steep. That's why our legislation would give stakeholders access to an administrative hearing to test the key disputed facts underlying these mega-rules. It would also permit greater judicial review of these rules to ensure that agencies do not rely on unfounded assumptions or treat cost-benefit analysis as a mere afterthought - as too often occurs today.

These measures will require some additional work on the front end, but the result will be lower costs and more stable regulatory outcomes.

This bill is only part of my bipartisan efforts to reform our regulatory system. I have also authored a bill reforming the way the federal government issues permits. Currently, the United States ranks 34th in the world for the time it takes to get a government green-light to actually build something - a key World Bank metric for the "ease of doing business." These delays kill jobs and hinder our economy with little benefit to the public, and it's time to do something about them.

I have also proposed extending the cost-benefit analysis rules that have long applied to executive agencies like the EPA to independent agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Applying a uniform standard to all government agencies has been advocated by organizations across the political spectrum, including President Obama's own Jobs Council.

Our economy has many challenges to overcome before it gets back to creating the jobs and prosperity that we expect. Federal government overregulation should not be one of those challenges. From the coal industry to Silicon Valley, job creators deserve better than they have received from regulators under this Administration.

So do the American people.

 
 

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