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Connolly Statement on Trump Administration's Regulation Rollback

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Vice Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released the following statement on the Trump Administration's regulatory rollback:

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 13, 2018
Rayburn 2154
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing on federal agency rulemaking and guidance practices.

At the end of last year, the President held an event to tout the Administration’s efforts to eliminate existing regulations, which also include delaying implementation of published rules and stopping planned rulemaking. With the help of the majority in Congress, this Administration has targeted for rollback rules that were put in place to protect every day American citizens who don’t have a team of lobbyists and lawyers at their disposal Instead, they hope that their elected leadership accepts as commonsense the need for clean air and water, a reduction in exposure to toxic chemicals, and workplace safety.

In the case of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Pruitt, decisions to repeal a rule or block its implementation are often accompanied by meetings with industry. For example, the New York Times reported that last March, Administrator Pruitt met with CropLife America, a trade association run by giant pesticide companies such as Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience to discuss easing regulatory burdens on agricultural businesses and pesticide manufacturers. This meeting came a day after Administrator Pruitt overruled EPA. scientists who had recommended that the agency ban a pesticide named chlorpyrifos, which has been blamed, in EPA-funded research, for causing developmental disabilities in children, particularly among families of farm workers.

Additionally, in late April, Administrator Pruitt met with five executives from the National Sorghum Producers to discuss their belief that use of half of the crop’s reliable insecticides may be banned under an EPA rule titled “Pesticide Applicator Certification Rule.” It is not surprising then that the EPA has continued to delay implementation of the rule until May of this year. There is no indication that Administrator Pruitt met with farmers and others whose health could be affected by the use of the affected pesticides. This begs the question why Administrator Pruitt does not care about the risks posed to the general population and the environment by those chemicals as they enter the food chain and make their way into our water systems.

The Trump Administration’s claim that regulations are costly, have little to no benefit, and lead to job loss is not supported by sound data. In fact, on a Friday afternoon last month, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quietly published a Congressionally mandated report analyzing the costs and benefits of major regulations between 2006 and 2016. The 2017 Draft Report to Congress on Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Agency Compliance with Unfunded Mandates Reform Act estimated that the aggregate benefits of those regulations were between $219 to $695 billion while the aggregate costs were between $59 to $88 billion. The benefits of regulatory action are often greater than the costs because agencies must prove to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at OMB that a rule has likely benefits for society that justify any costs before it can be published. The fact is that most rules have documented benefits and this Administration’s rhetoric about the costs of regulations is false.

The Administration’s claims of “job-killing regulations” is also not supported by research. Study after study has found that while regulations may reduce jobs in certain sectors, they create new jobs in others. For example, many have pointed to EPA rules promulgated during the Obama Administration that required coal-fired plants to make deep reductions in mercury and sulphur dioxide as some of the rules that lead to job losses in the coal and fossil fuel industry. However, these and other environmental regulations, helped spur job growth in the clean energy and sustainability market. A report by the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps found that sustainability jobs represent a large and growing portion of the U.S. workforce across multiple sectors. The study also found that sustainability jobs are outpacing the rest of the U.S. economy in growth and job creation. To underline this point – the renewable energy industry in American currently employs more than 3 million people and growing, while the coal industry employs 80,000 people and shrinking.

We cannot ignore the fact that regulations also benefit public welfare, which can outweigh the cost of a regulation. Better air and water quality secure enormous health benefits for the public in the case of decreased instances of illness and lower medical costs. Regulations can also save human lives. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in American history, the Department of Interior (DOI) implemented rules focused on the safety of drilling equipment, including tightened controls on blowout preventers, the devices that are intended to stop explosions in undersea oil and gas wells. Now, after lobbying from the oil and gas industries, DOI is planning to roll back some of these rules. DOI claims that easing these regulations would reduce industry compliance burdens by $228 million over 10 years. The Deepwater Horizon disaster’s cost to BP alone was over $65 billion and 11 people lost their lives.     

As the Committee discusses the regulatory process this morning, we cannot forget about the benefits of workplace safety, environmental, and other regulations that benefit the public good. Individuals who benefit from these regulations may not have corporate lobbyists to advocate on their behalf, but that does not mean the federal government should disregard the benefits of regulation for everyday Americans.

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