Quit feeding the EPA beast

Lance Brown Contributor
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“Overburdensome and unnecessary federal regulations can choke the life out of small businesses by imposing costly and often-ineffectual remedies to problems that may not exist.”

Do you know which U.S. Senator wrote the above quote? It’s not any of the usual suspects like Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), or Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), or Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)—though I think all three would agree.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote these words in 1996 following the passage of the Congressional Review Act, which he proudly proclaimed “gives Congress the power to reject within 60 days any regulation the President or any Executive authority promulgates.”

Now, Sen. Reid’s colleague Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is set to invoke the Congressional Review Act for the sake of protecting small businesses and consumers across America. As Sen. Reid wrote, Congress should give “small-business owners the tools necessary for economic survival in our rapidly changing economy.”

In January, Sen. Murkowski introduced a resolution of disapproval of the EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. When she introduced her bipartisan motion, co-sponsored by 40 other Senators, she made note that the EPA’s “command and control” approach to regulation of greenhouse gases would be an “economic train wreck” for the country.

Given the rules of the Congressional Review Act process—which Sen. Reid famously helped create—Congress is expected to vote on Sen. Murkowski’s resolution soon. If her resolution passes, the EPA will be barred from regulating greenhouse gases from sources like farms, hospitals, power plants, and schools. If her resolution does not pass, the EPA will likely move forward with their plan to impose unreasonable regulations without Congress’s consent on the American economy that will surely do more harm than good.

By July 2011, the EPA would start regulating large emitters, and expects to issue 550 initial permits to coal plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, and other necessary components of energy and manufacturing in the United States. The EPA would not regulate “the smallest sources” of emissions—as defined arbitrarily by the EPA—until 2016.

To use Sen. Reid’s words, the EPA’s regulations are certainly “overburdensome.” The regulations would raise energy production and compliance costs, which would ultimately lead to higher energy bills and loss of jobs. Americans would have no choice in the matter, either, because the regulations would be imposed by a government agency rather than legislation enacted by elected officials.

Likewise, the Congressional Review Act is needed in this case to stop “unnecessary” federal regulations. Last week, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced the American Power Act, which is another step in the process of moving the Senate closer to debating meaningful energy legislation. However, the EPA process would short-circuit this important debate by imposing costly regulations without the input of Congress.

Instead of allowing the EPA to impose these regulations, Congress should support Sen. Murkowski’s resolution. She needs 10 more supporters to stop the EPA from enacting, as Sen. Reid might say, “overburdensome and unnecessary federal regulations” that would hurt both businesses and consumers.

Then, Congress can get back to work on debating a comprehensive energy bill and passing legislation that will both help America find affordable and reliable sources of energy. In short, Congress should follow Sen. Reid’s advice of not imposing costly regulations that “choke the life out of small businesses” across the country.

Lance Brown is executive director of PACE.