Business lobby slams EPA for unfunded mandates

Business lobby slams EPA for unfunded mandates
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States are on the hook for implementing the majority of federal environmental regulations but receive little federal money to help them do that, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

In a study released Wednesday, the Chamber found federal grants cover only about 28 percent of the funding states need to implement Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. The study found grant assistance has declined 29 percent over the course of the decade even as the cost of implementing EPA rules has increased by more than one-third. 

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The report comes after the Chamber and its allies waged lobbying and legal campaigns against three major EPA rules released last year. Those regulations set limits on carbon pollution at power plants, establish federal control over small waterways and limit surface-level ozone emissions. 

The rules, the Chamber, business groups and the energy industry warn, will lead to higher costs for businesses and hinder states by requiring more regulatory oversight. 

“Instead of being the system of cooperative federalism that Congress intended, the current relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency and the states has become one-sided, with the federal government imposing its will,” William Kovacs, the Chamber’s senior vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs, said in a statement.

An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment on the report. But the agency notes online that it spends $4 billion on grants annually, and it requested $3.3 billion for state and tribal assistance grant funding alone in its 2017 budget. 

The Chamber said Congress needs to step in and overhaul federal laws governing unfunded mandates, including redefining the term to mean any rule that requires state funding for compliance and blocking rules unless federal agencies can cover potential state costs.