Reining in Regulators
By Rep. Kristi Noem
July 31, 2015
$1.88 trillion – that’s how much federal regulations cost hardworking Americans overall in 2014 alone. $14,976 – that’s how much, on average, those regulations cost each of us individually. 500 – that’s approximately how many new regulations costing more than $100 million annually have gone into effect since President Obama took office. No matter how you add the numbers up, it is too much. This administration and the federal bureaucracy it controls must be reined in. Period.
On July 29, the House of Representatives passed legislation that aims to provide more congressional oversight over the federal regulatory process. More specifically, the REINS Act, which is legislation I cosponsored, would require Congress to approve any regulation that costs the economy more than $100 million annually. That may seem like a high bar, but approximately 80 regulations would have tripped that threshold last year alone.
A number of these regulations are derived by the EPA. For instance, last June, the EPA released new greenhouse gas emission standards that apply to new as well as existing power plants. According to an October 2014 study by NERA Economic Consulting, the EPA’s proposal could cost consumers and businesses as much as $41 billion per year. Additionally, the Heritage Foundation estimates that by 2030, the costs could rise to a total income loss of more than $7,000 per person.
We all want to preserve our environment for future generations, but in a state like South Dakota, the costs associated with a regulation like this could prove devastating. Families in South Dakota that earn less than $50,000 per year already spend one-fifth of their after-tax income on energy costs, which is double the national average. Many can’t afford to pay even more.
Of course, the EPA’s upcharges don’t end there. I’ve heard from many South Dakotans about their concerns with a new “Waters of the U.S.” definition that the EPA released. It grossly expands the agency’s reach, giving them regulatory authority over many streams, ditches, sloughs, and even areas that are only wet seasonally. The expanded authority would empower them to fine property owners tens of thousands of dollars per violation – per day.
The EPA is eager to utilize this authority too. Last year – before the expansion was finalized – the agency threatened to go after a Wyoming farmer for digging a stock dam on his own property. He explains they threatened a $75,000-a-day fine. After heavy pressure from Wyoming’s congressional delegation, the EPA backed down. Even so, no farmer, rancher, or citizen should have to endure those unnecessary headaches at the hand of an overzealous federal agency. I share concerns that this story won’t be the last.
Federal regulators shouldn’t be able to operate in a bubble. It’s time they are forced to think twice before finalizing ill-considered, needlessly costly and simply unnecessary regulations. That is what the REINS Act intends to do. I’m hopeful we can see this necessary legislation move forward in the Senate and make its way to the President’s desk. You deserve greater accountability.