As I travel through the 23rd District of Texas and visit with small business owners, I constantly hear about the burden of Washington’s red tape and the avalanche of regulations that they have to comply with. When you look at the facts about the regulatory burden small businesses face, it’s shocking. Recently, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) came to an alarming determination: current regulations imposed by the federal government require U.S. businesses to spend over 10.3 billion in paperwork compliance hours each year. Even more shocking, OIRA determined that the cost of the 10.3 billion hours of paperwork compliance equaled $77.2 billion, money these businesses could have used to hire more employees or invest in their companies.
In the first three years of the current administration, over 100 major regulations have been implemented - nearly four times the number of the previous administration. Unsurprisingly, a December 2011 survey of businesses conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business found that “regulations and red tape” was second only to “poor sales” as the single largest problem businesses confront. Over-regulation eventually trickles down to consumers and employees in the form of higher costs, layoffs, and loss of services as a result of the costs of compliance with the various regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been the biggest violator when it comes to issuing job killing regulations, attempting to regulate everything from dust in the air to water in stock tanks on ranches. It appears as if the EPA has no regard for the cost or jobs that will be lost as a result of the implementation of its current and proposed regulations. Let’s remember the statement of the now-ex EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz, likening his use of the EPA’s enforcement process to a conquering Roman army crucifying people to control through fear. While Mr. Armendariz is gone from the EPA, unfortunately there are countless others at the agency who share this extreme philosophy. That is why I’ve been fighting – and will continue to fight – to rein in the EPA and hold it accountable. Last week I voted for a bill that would attempt to determine the effect EPA regulations have on gas and diesel fuels prices to ensure we have a better idea of the actual consequences of such policies on family budgets and job creation.
The struggle against EPA regulations will continue into the foreseeable future, particularly with the controversial Utility MACT regulation issued by the EPA in February to further reduce emissions from coal-fired powered plants. While the EPA estimated that the national annual cost of the rule would be $9.6 billion, two dozen companies have already announced that their compliance costs alone are three times higher ($32.9 Billion) than the EPA’s estimate for the entire country, and the industry has already announced direct layoffs of 5,100 jobs, with more than 9,100 jobs being directly affected by Utility MACT. This regulation has been characterized as the most expensive rule ever imposed by the EPA on the utility sector. Unfortunately, the layoffs and costs of compliance will increase energy costs this summer just as temperatures peak in Texas. I am committed to defeating this regulation, which will destroy jobs and drive up energy costs for consumers. Instead of issuing this unwise rule, the EPA should work with stakeholders to strike a balance between protecting our environment and keeping energy prices down.
There is no doubt that some regulation from the federal government is necessary, but we have to do it in a common sense manner where agencies meet with the stakeholders who will be affected by the regulations. Over-regulation harms the economy, particularly our small businesses, and costs taxpayers money and jobs. We must ensure that new regulations are absolutely necessary and not simply knee-jerk reactions to perceived issues or attempts to insert federal government control over private enterprise.
This column was written by U.S. Rep. Francisco Canseco.