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NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Obama’s Regulatory Burden

The president has misread his mandate on the economy.

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Washington, DC, December 15, 2011 | Meghan Kolassa ((202) 225-3761) | comments
By Rep. Fred Upton -

In the next few days, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue another final regulation directed at electricity utilities. This rule, known as the Utility MACT, will impose an estimated $11 billion each year in new costs on our economy. It will threaten electricity-generating capacity in many parts of the country. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this administration’s runaway rulemaking.

I’m often asked when I’m home in Michigan why the House of Representatives has been so active this year passing legislation related to environment and energy rules.

The answer is simple. The Obama administration forced our hand with a regulatory approach that threatens to destroy jobs and drive up costs for families.

Never before have we seen a regulatory agenda as broad and as costly. Compounding the pain, the Obama administration unleashed its aggressive regulatory agenda on an economy that was already the weakest in decades.

The Obama administration and likeminded Democrats in Congress have consistently misread the problem and the solution. They missed the American people’s desire for balanced policy that protects jobs; they failed to see that reasonable regulatory solutions garnered broad support; and they underestimated the depth of our economic problems.

According to data available from the Office of Management and Budget, President Obama has issued 50 percent more “economically significant regulations” (those with an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more) per year than President Clinton and 44 percent more than George W. Bush.

Unfortunately, when it comes to regulations, it’s not just that there are more of them: The Obama administration’s regulatory actions are also more expensive. The average annual cost of major regulations under the Bush administration was $4.9 billion. Under Obama, the average cost has ballooned to $12.5 billion — that’s a cost increase of more than 150 percent to American businesses and consumers.

A bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives has risen up to reject the Obama administration’s high-volume, high-cost approach to regulations. This is a natural reaction to an administration that has consistently misread the American mood and miscalculated the appropriate response to what ails our economy.

Over the past year, the House has approved numerous bills compelling the Obama administration to take a more commonsense approach to regulations: bills that would continue to protect the public and the environment while also protecting the economy.

These measures would shield as many as 2 million or more American jobs put at risk by regulatory overreach, and they would remove the uncertainty that is such a powerful deterrent to economic recovery.

We passed legislation to stop the administration from imposing costly regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions. We advanced bills to require the administration to reissue rules aimed at industrial boilers, cement manufacturers, and power plants because their initial proposals were too expensive and unrealistic. And we approved legislation creating a new state-based regulatory framework for coal ash that avoids Washington’s one-size-fits-all rule.

Our legislation is about protecting jobs, and it’s also about creating new ones as we gain access to more secure energy supplies. We voted to streamline EPA’s role in the permitting process for energy exploration in Alaska, which has been stymied by endless appeals and delays from environmental groups. If we can cut through the red tape, development of Alaska’s arctic waters alone could produce up to 1 million barrels of domestic oil production per day and create more than 50,000 American jobs.

Similarly, we passed legislation — not once but twice — calling on the Obama administration to end the uncertainty surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, another project that would create tens of thousands of jobs and carry more than 1 million barrels of oil per day from our neighbors in Canada.

Some Democrats in Washington and their allies in the environmental lobby have made outlandish charges, saying our efforts were extreme or would harm the environment. This is yet another misreading. In reality, all of these measures have attracted bipartisan congressional support because they call for a balanced approach to environmental regulation — an inconvenient truth for the environmental lobbyists standing against our bipartisan coalition.

Overly aggressive and costly regulations will always slow economic growth and stall job creation. But what’s clear today is that the current economic downturn and weakness is deeper and more prolonged than the Obama economic team predicted — another miscalculation that may have played into the decision to unleash these rules when our economy could afford them least. Yet even when the dire economic situation became clear, the regulatory juggernaut did not cease.

This monument of misreadings stands today. It’s why our bipartisan efforts to find common ground and protect jobs will continue.

Rep. Fred Upton is chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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