Energy & Environment

Greens say House bill would destroy pollution rules

Environmental groups say a House bill aimed at reining in regulatory costs would hamper the government’s ability to fight pollution.

The Regulatory Accountability Act, on which the House will vote as soon as today, would gut the Clean Air Act by mandating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to weigh the costs of stopping pollution against the health benefits, greens said.

{mosads}It would also add scores of new requirements for federal agencies when writing new regulations, which would reduce the government’s ability to implement new rules.

“Counter to the claims of its proponents, this bill further complicates the current rulemaking process,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski wrote in a “dear colleague” letter to members of the House.

“It would add more than sixty new analytical and procedural requirements for already resource-strapped agencies that will only serve to further delay the rulemaking process,” he said.

The bill would also require that agencies adopt only the least costly regulatory alternatives, which is currently in the Toxic Substances Control Act and has rendered it “useless,” Karpinski said.

John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said the law would be particularly harmful to the Clean Air Act.

That law currently requires the EPA to set air quality standards based only on what is necessary to protect public health, and the EPA can only take cost into account when enforcing the rules.

But the Regulatory Accountability Act would mandate that the EPA weigh the costs and benefits of air standards, Walke said in a blog post.

“The Regulatory Accountability Act would take away this right and eliminate the Clean Air Act’s health centerpiece,” Walke wrote. “The bill does so by directing that EPA shall consider cleanup costs by polluting industries when defining clean air and telling Americans whether the air is safe.”

But business groups welcomed the bill and encouraged its passage.

“A smarter regulatory system that engages affected parties earlier in the process, improves the quality of information relied upon by federal agencies and better estimates the costs and benefits of potential regulations will help promote business investment, innovation and job creation,” Andrew Liveris, head of Dow Chemical Co. and chairman of the Business Roundtable, said in a statement.

The American Chemistry Council said the bill would provide some relief from the billions of dollars of upcoming regulations its industry is facing.

“America’s chemistry industry is making a major contribution to economic recovery, with more than $136 billion in new U.S. investment planned or underway,” the group wrote to lawmakers with various other interest groups.

“Yet we face a flawed regulatory process that adds substantial costs, complexity and uncertainty to projects. The Regulatory Accountability Act is an important step toward common-sense, cost-effective rules and a clearer, more transparent process.”

President Obama said Monday that he would veto the bill if the House and Senate pass it.

Tags American Chemistry Council Business Roundtable League of Conservation Voters Natural Resources Defense Council

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