Photo by George Lauby
Sen. Mike Johanns
What do farmers and ranchers, builders and businesspeople have in common?
One thing I keep hearing from constituents in these respective industries is that an onslaught of rules and regulations from federal agencies has hampered their abilities to develop new innovations and create needed jobs.
Since President Obama took office, more than 308,000 pages of new rules have been added to the Federal Register. That’s enough paper to cover more than four and a half acres of farmland, and weighs more than three Ford F-150 pickups trucks.
The Environmental Protection Agency is one of the worst offenders, proposing roughly $172 billion in compliance costs for new regulations last year alone.
While it is important that we ensure our environment is adequately protected, the way EPA conducts business must change.
That’s why, last week, I introduced four bills to help clear the air with EPA’s operation.
Although the contents of EPAs regulations are often problematic, the agency’s regulatory processes are another great cause for concern. Instead of treating states as equals, for example, EPA has chosen to force states to adopt one-size-fits-all federal enforcement plans.
EPA has also circumvented Congress by making major policy changes through guidance documents, which are not subject to Congressional review the same way rules are -- a loophole that can be used to broaden the scope of existing law without following the standard rulemaking process.
In 2011, EPA issued a guidance document defining waters of the United States, which are subject to certain federal laws, substantially expanding those laws’ jurisdictions.
The legislation I introduced would address these issues and increase accountability at EPA.
One bill would provide Congress greater oversight by bringing EPA guidance documents under the scope of the Congressional Review Act.
A second piece of legislation would require EPA’s Inspector General to report to Congress twice a year on the agency’s progress in meeting regulatory reporting requirements in current law.
A third bill would reduce EPA’s budget by $20,000 every week until EPA meets its legal deadlines for regulatory agenda-setting.
And the final component would promote transparency and cooperation with state governments by requiring EPA to provide timely information and technical assistance to states working to comply with EPA mandates.
A federal agency with the reach and influence of the EPA must be transparent in its operations and cooperative with states, industries and businesses it effects. Unfortunately, EPA has been as transparent as the mud puddles it is trying to regulate.
EPA must change the way it does things. My legislation can help to restore critical public and congressional oversight.
Sen. Mike Johanns represents Nebraska in the U.S. Senate.