Misguided Regulatory Accountability Act Will Increase Red Tape, Obstruct Vital Safeguards for Millions of Americans

By Martha Roberts

New legislative proposals on the Hill put long-standing public health, safety and environmental protections at risk.

These so-called “regulatory reform” efforts sound innocuous, but they would dramatically increase red tape and industry lobbyist influence – eviscerating bedrock statutory protections for American communities.

Take just one example – the Senate version of the Regulatory Accountability Act from 2015, which is widely seen as a potential foundation for legislation in this new Congress.

With this legislation, the development of any new protections – new clean air protections, new food safety requirements, new care standards for veterans, new child safety regulations – would be subject to a range of needless additional hurdles. And if the protections couldn’t get through the hurdles in time, then the whole process would have to start again, from scratch. Important safeguards would face time-consuming, costly new burdens – burdens that would fall on the public, on businesses, and anyone trying to participate in the decision-making process.

These additional, costly hurdles will give powerful interests that can afford expensive lawyers a leg up in the rulemaking process – allowing them to delay and obstruct protections they don’t like, as well as boosting their chances of fighting in court – while tilting the playing field against everyone else.

Here’s a head-spinning diagram showing what the process for drafting a new safeguard would look like if this proposed legislation became law:

Here are just some of the burdensome new requirements included in the 2015 version of this legislation:

Paralysis by Analysis to Derail Vital Safeguards

The Regulatory Accountability Act would impose needless analytic requirements on proposed new protections that would add a heavy burden without any benefit. Agencies already exhaustively assess the costs and benefits of new protections, but this legislation would require agencies to analyze and compare a potentially limitless number of proposed alternatives to the plan they think is best, using a variety of new, additional analyses.

A new crib safety regulation, for example, put forth in response to evidence of a real threat to babies, might have to wait years while an agency completed a host of vague, undefined analyses for each alternative proposed by industry — as detailed in the diagram above. A court would then have broad authority to scrutinize the analyses’ adequacy, giving industry attorneys another chance to challenge and block important safeguards.

Thumb on the Scale Against Protecting Americans from Serious Harm

Not surprisingly, within the very long list of additional requirements in the Regulatory Accountability Act, there’s barely a hint of considering any of the benefits of health and safety protections – healthier and safer lives, stronger communities, new jobs in clean energy and health and safety fields, among many others.

Least Common Denominator

Under the Regulatory Accountability Act, at the initiation of rulemaking an agency would have to solicit alternatives for accomplishing the objectives of the agency “with the lowest cost.” For many rules, the agency would generally be required to adopt the least-costly option considered – regardless of the benefits of the different options.

Under this reasoning, a drinking water protection that imposes no costs would beat out one that imposes $1 in costs, even if the latter yielded substantially better protection and major health benefits.

While the Regulatory Accountability Act would permit an agency to adopt a rule that is “more costly than the least costly alternative,” it would only be authorized where the agency has completed additional burdensome analysis and explanation that would be subject to challenge in court – creating obvious pressure to default to the least protective approach.

More generally, this rigid requirement would override existing laws and leave safeguards more vulnerable to challenge in court from those opposed to protection.

Science on Trial

The Regulatory Accountability Act would allow anyone to request a formal hearing on the record with cross-examination of the parties over disputed facts. This addition would amount to a trial-like procedure at the proposal stage, and could be invoked in a wide range of circumstances. Echoing a theme of this legislation, the burden of proof would be against protection. There’s no clarity about what counts as a disputed fact – meaning that this burdensome, needless exercise could be invoked to rehash long-settled issues about health and environmental risks.

Consider a new air pollution protection – EPA might now be subject to an entire hearing procedure to re-prove that smog causes asthma attacks and other lung diseases. This requirement would add major delays and costs to implementation of any protection, and would put industry and other moneyed interests at a considerable advantage over organizations and individuals who are less able to retain expensive lawyers and expert witnesses.

Less Science, More Cost

The Regulatory Accountability Act includes new requirements for the publication of any and all data that an agency requests, receives, or relies on during a rulemaking process. Transparency is important – and it is a foundation of current rulemaking processes. But these requirements have significant similarities with the misguided Secret Science bill that has been considered in past Congressional terms in that it is incompatible both with ethical and legal requirements to keep personal health records confidential and is designed to obstruct consideration of major rigorous peer reviewed studies that properly rely on but do not disclose private individual health data.

Safeguard Guillotine

Under the proposed legislation, if an agency cannot meet newly imposed deadlines for finalizing a rule, it gets one extension. If the agency misses the second deadline, the proposal is null and void, and the agency must start over from scratch. No exceptions — not for veterans, not for airplane safety, not for children’s health, not for common sense, none. The agency must re-propose and start over from square one.

These arbitrary deadlines would be challenging to meet even under current procedures. With all the requirements imposed by this bill, anyone opposed to a new safeguard would have innumerable opportunities to drag out the process and force an agency to miss this arbitrary deadline – derailing vital safeguards and sending expert agencies back to the drawing board.

The Result: More Red Tape, Less Protection for Our Communities and Families

Why are supporters of this legislation arguing for more red tape?

The Regulatory Accountability Act is not designed to streamline and improve the regulatory process. It’s designed to bog down development of any new safeguard — any new protection. This bill offers countless new hurdles that can block new safeguards, or create new grounds for litigation and lawsuits. For big polluters, that would be great news.

For everyone else, this legislation would mean more delay, more burden, and more uncertainty in establishing basic protections. Many of these requirements substantially increase barriers for ordinary citizens and small businesses to participate and inform the decision-making process. The result, in practice, would be that big-money interests would have a big edge in influencing final decisions, at the expense of small businesses and everyday citizens.

 

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When EPA Is Under Threat, So Is Business: Two Key Examples

By EDF Blogs

(This post first appeared on EDF+Business. It was written by EDF’s Liz Delaney)

American businesses benefit tremendously from the robust voluntary and regulatory programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These programs are now under threat of massive budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks.  In the coming weeks and months, the experts at EDF+Business will examine what a weakened EPA means for business. 

While some politicians may question the reality of climate change, most CEOs do not. So it’s no surprise that while Congress has been stuck, business has been busy addressing the problem. Luckily, they’ve had a helpful partner by their side: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Contrary to now head of the EPA Scott Pruitt’s claim that business has been subjected to “regulatory uncertainty”—stated during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—the Agency has administered a number of voluntary and regulatory programs that help corporations respond to the challenge of climate change. For companies, future planning is simply good business. This is why many in  Corporate America—having long accepted that climate change is real— are continuing to transition towards low-carbon energy options and work with the EPA to move forward in a sensible, cost-effective manner.

But with the recent announcement on Pruitt’s plans to cut the EPA’s budget by a reported 24 percent—roughly $6 billion, its lowest since the mid-1980’s–it may be up to the business community to defend the instrumental role of the Agency in helping business thrive while protecting the environment.

Here’s a look at just two of the many EPA programs that have helped business transition to a clean energy future.

Forging a smart economic future with the Clean Power Plan

Many in the business community strongly supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)—the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The argument? Dirty sources of energy generation are becoming a growing concern for corporate America. These energy sources are increasingly uneconomic. Fortune 500 companies routinely set renewable energy and emissions reduction goals, but find roadblocks in many energy markets around the country.

Fortunately, the CPP can open new opportunities for businesses interested in operating in a clean energy economy. The rule’s flexible framework puts states in the driver’s seat to set plans that call for the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for meeting pollution reduction targets while spurring innovation. If you ask me, this satisfies Pruitt’s call to “restore federalism” by giving states more of a say in regulations. The plans provide clarity on the energy options available to businesses in different regions, helping to inform their long-term carbon reduction strategies and eventually increase access to cost-effective low-carbon energy.

This explains why last year major innovators including Mars, IKEA, Apple, Google, and Microsoft filed legal briefs in federal court supporting the EPA’s Plan. And more recently, leading executives from over 760 companies and investors—many of them Fortune 500 firms—called upon the new Administration to move ahead with policies to address climate change, like the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP is positioned to:

  • Generate $155 billion in consumer savings between 2020-2030
  • Create 3x as many jobs per $1 invested in clean energy as compared to $1 invested in fossil fuels
  • Lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $54 billion, including avoiding 3,600 premature deaths in 2030

The Green Power Partnership

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program launched by the EPA to increase the use of renewable electricity in the U.S. Under the program, businesses are armed with resources and provided technical support to identify the types of green power products that best meet their goals. Since its inception, the Partnership has made notable progress in addressing market barriers to green power procurement.

Through the Partnership, companies can reduce their carbon footprints, increase cost savings, and demonstrate civic leadership, which further drives customer, investor and stakeholder loyalty. Take Colgate-Palmolive for example: as one of the Green Power Partnership’s national top 100, the consumer products giant has generated close to 2 billion kWh of annual green power through wind power alone. This represents 80% of the company’s total electricity use.

Today, hundreds of Partner organizations rely on billions of kWh of green power annually. At the end of 2015, over 1,300 Partners were collectively using more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

Pruitt has ratified the belief that we can “grow jobs, grow the economy while being good stewards of the environment”–and he’s right. The renewable energy industry is now outpacing the rest of the U.S. in job creation; which is good news for business and the economy at large. American wind power now supports more than 100,000 jobs—an increase of 32% in just one year—and solar employs more people in U.S. electricity generation than oil, coal and gas combined.

Long-term economics versus short-term politics

We don’t know what will happen in Washington over the next few years. But many businesses are moving forward. Rather than shift course, corporations are increasing investments in clean, reliable power, a move that is consistent with sound business practices.

But business can’t do it alone. The EPA supports responsible companies who have committed to reducing their carbon footprints while safeguarding our planet. It’s time for business to not just leverage their scale and buying power to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, but to speak up in favor of maintaining a well-funded agency that continues to make decisions based on sound science and the law.

In his first address to the EPA, Scott Pruitt said, “you can’t lead unless you listen.” Let’s make sure he hears from the businesses that are focused on a future where both the economy and the environment can thrive.

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Trump’s interior secretary reverses ban on lead ammo on national wildlife refuges as his first official act

Hunters and anglers deposit tens of thousands of tons of lead in our environment, and it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning.  Above, an eastern screech owl with lead poisoning being cared for at one of our wildlife care centers.

Hunters and anglers deposit tens of thousands of tons of lead in our environment, and it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning. Above, an eastern screech owl with lead poisoning being cared for at one of our wildlife care centers. Photo by Cassie Langtry/The HSUS

So much for sober-minded consultation, careful study of the data, and thoughtful analysis from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and other experts on his staff. Before the chair in his office was even warm, and just after he dismounted from his horse, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke undid a director’s order to phase out the . . . 

The post Trump’s interior secretary reverses ban on lead ammo on national wildlife refuges as his first official act appeared first on A Humane Nation.

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Keeping America Great: Smart Rules Can Help The Economy And Nature Prosper

By Diane Regas

Barely a month after his inauguration, President Trump is proceeding with plans to dismantle protections under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.  The targets include limiting pollution into streams and wetlands that flow into drinking water for a hundred million Americans, automobile fuel economy standards that cut tailpipe pollution, and performance standards under the Clean Power Plan that would boost renewable power and fight climate change.  Trump and his EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, have drawn up reckless plans to slash EPA’s budget—greeted with derision even by some Republicans in Congress.  With the tragic story of Flint still fresh in people’s minds, the President is betraying the demands of his own supporters — fully 64% of Trump voters want to maintain or increase spending on environmental protection.

These actions are a tragic wrong turn for the country — and not just because they threaten to roll back decades of progress on air and water pollution, and the recent steps forward on climate change.

What I especially worry about are the lost opportunities for economic growth, new jobs, and the competitiveness of American companies — at a time when China and others are stepping up.

I think we can all agree that America is great in part because of our huge capacity for innovation — from Henry Ford to Elon Musk. But sadly, the new administration fails to understand that affirmative government policy has a crucial role to play in keeping the engine of innovation healthy and humming. In fact, during my decades of working under six different EPA administrators, almost all of them Republicans, I’ve seen first-hand the ability of smart regulations to unleash the enormous power of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship.


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Smart rules — focused on results, not process — stimulate new ideas, create new markets and jobs, and raise living standards for all Americans. The limits imposed on pollution spewing from auto exhaust pipes not only cleaned the air and improved health, for example, they also spurred new technologies that increase fuel efficiency. As a result, Americans save money every time they pull up to the gas pump (though these benefits are threatened by the plans to roll back fuel economy standards). Similarly, protecting the ozone layer drove the development of new refrigerants, bringing higher profits for the innovative companies that paved the way to the new products.

But don’t take my word for it.

Clean states

“I refused to gamble on the energy diversity options.” — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

Listen instead to Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois. Rauner recently signed a bipartisan bill that requires utilities in the state to generate 25% of their electricity from clean renewable sources like wind and solar by 2025 and to significantly boost the efficiency of energy use in homes and businesses. The mandates are good for the planet, of course, because they will cut the state’s emissions of climate change-causing greenhouse gases even more than would be required under Obama’s Clean Power Plan. And far from killing the economy, they will entice more than $10 billion in new investment dollars into the state and save people money on their electric bills. “I refused to gamble on thousands of good-paying jobs, and I refused to gamble on the energy diversity options for the people of Illinois,” Rauner told the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s why I fought to make this bill happen.”

Clean grid

These regulations are stimulating the economy by creating high-paying jobs in construction and in manufacturing.

Or consider a seemingly arcane change in rules by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about how transmission grid operators are paid to manage power fluctuations on the grid. The rule change has already spurred competition and made it cheaper (and more effective) to rely on batteries instead of ramping up gas generators — and helped fuel a whole new business in large-scale battery storage. Now, that industry is being truly kick-started by regulatory mandates, first in California, then in Oregon and Massachusetts, requiring that hundreds of megawatts of storage be added to the grid. This support in the early phase will help make battery storage competitive everywhere. These regulations are crucial weapons in the fight against climate change. But just as important, they are stimulating the economy by creating high-paying jobs in construction and in manufacturing facilities like Tesla’s battery gigafactory. As California Governor Jerry Brown says: “Regulation inspires innovation.

Clean cars

I’ve been fortunate to personally benefit from such innovations. Pacific Gas and Electric is paying me to use my electric car as flexible power storage on their grid. PG&E and BMW have teamed up in a pilot project to test how to use plugged-in electric vehicles to meet short spikes in the supply of clean power. The utility saves money on power plants, can build-in more renewables, and will pay owners like me up to $900 over the two-year program. I’m also thrilled by the many advantages of the car itself: peppy acceleration, whisper-quiet operation, and low maintenance costs.

Clean tech

Breathtaking innovation in sensors, artificial intelligence, and advanced materials can thrive because the US creates the right environment. But an ideologically blinded attack on all government funding and regulation will create uncertainty and smother innovation that we desperately need. More than ever, we urgently need to protect the environment and slow climate change with smart investments and standards that also increase prosperity for all Americans. “The key is designing policies that point the way forward while creating a wide playing field for innovators to develop the best solutions,” says Anthony (Tony) F. Earley, Jr., Executive Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation.

Global momentum

China is creating the world’s largest carbon emissions trading system.

Other countries understand this urgency. China is creating the world’s largest carbon emissions trading system, harnessing the power of the free market to fuel innovation and find the cheapest and best approaches to cutting carbon pollution.  In a powerful symbolic move, China just announced a competition to develop key market infrastructure — on the Friday before the National People’s Congress.

Countries like Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway are already far ahead of us in shares of renewable power or electric cars and are reaping the resulting economic benefits from their homegrown innovations and world-leading companies. Eliminating the rules that have been successful in stimulating clean energy advances here in America will only put us further behind.

With the right smart regulations and policies, we can protect our cherished clean air and clean water and stabilize the climate. And at the same time, we will also keep America great.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

Photo source: Grid Alternatives

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