EPA regulatory lunge could result in 2011 economic plunge

Supported by an administration that has suffered defeat after defeat on Capitol Hill in its attempt to pass wholesale climate change legislation, EPA instead seeks to impose its costly and burdensome regulatory agenda through the back door. From overly complex new greenhouse gas rules to more stringent ozone standards to new mandates for recycled coal ash, unelected EPA bureaucrats hope to decree through regulatory fiat what they can’t enact through the democratic or legislative processes.

If successful, EPA’s agenda could cost American families $3,000 per year, according to Heritage Foundation estimates. Just this week, moreover, Obama’s EPA proposed a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency mandates for commercial trucks, buses and tractor trailers by 2018. How does the agency expect already-strapped businesses to suddenly pay for those new mandates?

Given our current economic state, further government regulation and uncertainty are the last things we can afford. In addition to cost considerations, however, two other aspects of EPA’s power grab should alarm concerned Americans.

First, EPA rulemaking processes lack transparency. When President Obama was heralded into Washington, he vowed to make his administration the most open government in American history. How quickly he jettisoned pledges previously made. For example, the President dismissed his “ethics czar” recently, offering him instead the post of U.S. Ambassador in the Czech Republic. His replacement? Well, most of the transferred duties now rest with White House Counsel Bob Bauer, who has stated, “disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned.”

It thus appears that Bauer will be more than happy to assist EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in her quest to implement new, extremely costly regulatory programs behind closed doors. Shouldn’t we expect the government to disclose to taxpayers how these new environmental regulations are being made, or even what the alleged benefits of the regulations are? According to EPA and White House: “Not necessarily.”

Speaking of taxpayers, a second serious danger stemming from the EPA’s regulatory overreach is its inherent lack of accountability. EPA is a bureaucracy; not a single employee there was voted into his or her job. It is, therefore, no wonder that the agency’s hijacking of the legislative process has caught the attention of more than a few elected officials in Congress.

Politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows. But when two legislators as different as Sen. Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Congressman Fred Upton (R–Mich.) agree, something must be amiss. Upton recently called EPA’s plans a “regulatory train wreck” of “job killing” proposals. Schumer has expressed similar frustration, and both are right to be irked. Indeed, EPA’s attempts to skirt Congressional approval of such comprehensive mandates via backdoor rulemaking undermine the separation of powers at the heart of our constitutional system.

Shouldn’t those making the rules be accountable to the people who will be footing the billions of dollars in costs associated with these new regulatory burdens?

The U.S. economy simply cannot bear these burdensome regulatory costs that amount to hidden taxes on consumers – taxes that will kill jobs and increase costs for both consumers and businesses. Unemployment nationwide is still at 9.6 percent, far higher than the 60-year national average of 5.7 percent. Wages, moreover, continue to stagnate, meaning consumers are even less able now to cope with the costs of new EPA regulations.

Since its founding in October 1970, EPA has exerted broad influence over consumer behavior and business activity. But given the current state of American affairs, both politically and economically, government intervention in the form of increased EPA regulation is not tenable. On the heels of auto takeovers, bank bailouts and health care mandates, now is not the time for even more government overreach into the pocketbooks of consumers and the balance sheets of U.S. employers.

Americans nationwide have had enough. Hopefully the EPA will soon hear loud and clear both its colleagues on Capitol Hill and voters across the country calling in unison, “No more unnecessary regulation.” 

Timothy H. Lee is Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs for the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF).

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