U.S. House Republicans, frustrated with the Environmental Protection Agency, took steps Friday to create a new commission to keep it in line.
The House Energy and Power Subcommittee Friday voted to force the Obama administration to study the cumulative effect of environmental regulations, addressing a complaint of House Republicans who argue that the EPA hasn't considered the effects of its multiple rules as it pursues a wide-ranging regulatory agenda. The report would have to be finished by August 2012--the middle of the U.S. presidential-campaign season.
Republicans said the EPA isn't fully accounting for the costs of all its regulations, which would limit emissions in a wide range of industrial facilities, from cement plants to paper mills. About a half-dozen rules affect the coal industry alone. The EPA, which in many cases acts under court order to enforce the Clean Air Act, said the pollution-control rules will provide economic and health benefits.
"It is imperative that we have some idea of the cumulative impact of regulations of this depth, this comprehensiveness and its impact on our ability to create jobs," said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R., Kent.).
The bill from Rep. John Sullivan (R., Okla.) must now move through the House Energy Committee before being voted upon by the full House. It has support from House Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and others.
The bill would create a commission with 11 members from various government agencies, chaired by the U.S. Commerce Department secretary or his designee. The group would study the effect of environmental rules on unemployment, gasoline prices, electricity prices, and other metrics and report the results to Congress.
President Barack Obama, for his part, issued an executive order in January reiterating that each agency should "tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society" and take into account, "to the extent practicable, the costs of cumulative regulations."
"If the president's orders are true, I think that he should accept this," Sullivan said of his bill.
The bill would pay for the new commission with $3.5 million that had been dedicated to federal grants to reduce diesel emissions. Supporters of the bill said they hoped the agencies wouldn't need the extra funds. "I continue to believe the agencies can and should conduct this type of economic analysis with existing resources," Sullivan said.
Democrats criticized the bill, saying it wouldn't provide a full picture of the regulations' effects. "This bill will highlight the cost of implementing certain EPA rules but does not take into account all of the benefits of these regulations," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.).
Other said the deadline was too soon for a complicated economic analysis. "This legislation is likely to produce nothing but guesswork," said Rep. Henry Waxman, (R., Calif.).
Sullivan said the full House would vote on the bill "absolutely by August." With approval, it would head to the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Sullivan said he thought bill had a chance of finding support from enough senators, but acknowledged that "this certainly is messaging."