Energy

Obama Pushes $5 Billion Worth Of Regulations Before Thanksgiving

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The Obama administration turned up the regulatory spigot and published 21 new regulations in the last week that will cost the economy nearly $5 billion, signaling a slew of “midnight” regulations may be on the way.

“This is either the beginning of a midnight uptick in regulation or an otherwise busy week for federal regulators,” Sam Batkins, the director of regulatory policy at the right-leaning American Action Forum, wrote in a report.

Batkins, an expert on federal regulations, found federal agencies finalized 19 new regulations last week totaling $2.4 billion in costs, but only $623 million in benefits. Batkins also pointed to another two recently-finalized rules costing businesses $2.3 billion.

The White House is increasing the number of rules it pushes out every week as federal agencies rush to finish regulations before President Barack Obama leaves office in January. The Obama administration’s latest Unified Agenda had 1,019 final rules ready to be put on the books.

“This week, [the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)] received nine regulations, up from four last week; all but two were final rules and five were economically significant,” Batkins wrote.

“OIRA discharged 16 regulations, up from five from last week, including eight economically significant measures, up from just one last week,” he wrote. “During a 48-hour period, OIRA approved ten rules, including six economically significant measures.”

Federal agencies recently shattered a regulatory record, publishing 527 pages worth of rules in just one day. The Federal Register already has 81,640 pages — more than any other year. Regulations cost the economy nearly $1.9 trillion every year, according to experts.

AAF tracks the total cost new regulations impose on businesses. In 2016 alone, federal agencies have issued almost $200 billion worth of new rules.

“The per capita regulatory burden for 2016 is $618,” Batkins wrote.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Dodd-Frank have turned out to be some of the costliest rules ever issued by federal agencies. ACA has cost states and businesses $51 billion and 172 million annual paperwork hours.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill has cost businesses $36.5 billion and upwards of 75 million annual paperwork burden hours.

Federal agencies typically unleash a tidal wave of regulations before a president leaves office — especially if the incoming president is of another party. These are called “midnight” regulations.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to roll back many of the regulations imposed under Obama. That includes key global warming and environmental regulations targeting the coal industry.

Experts have fingered at least 150 rules Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress can undo using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That process, however, could take months.

One such regulation is a recent Department of the Interior rule on flaring natural gas on federal lands. The $1.4 billion rule aims to fight global warming by reducing flaring and increasing the amount of natural gas delivered to consumers. It’s probably on the chopping block.

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