May 02, 2016 - 9:00am

Time to Check Federal Regulatory Power


Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. government is built on a system of checks and balances. Skeptical of government power, the Founding Fathers made it difficult to encroach on the rights of citizens and established co-equal branches of government. They created frequent elections so that the people could hold elected officials accountable.

This is not happening in our regulatory system, where unelected and unaccountable regulators routinely ignore the will of Congress, toss aside the built-in checks on regulatory power, and impose their own agenda. These violations have real-world consequences—they hurt our economy, the rule of law, and businesses, workers, and consumers. Take a look at what this system has wrought.

Ozone Rule. Last fall, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an ozone rule that imposes billions of dollars of costs on state and local governments and is so aggressive that the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park would be in violation of it, as would more than 950 U.S. counties. This “nonattainment” designation would hamper development in local economies across the nation. Businesses could be denied federal air permits, putting construction—and construction jobs—at risk. Local transportation projects could lose federal funding. Plus, the rule is unnecessary. Since 1980, ozone-forming emissions have been cut in half.

Clean Power Plan (CPP). EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan upends the entire U.S. energy sector by requiring states to cut carbon emissions from power plants. CPP would increase average electricity prices in 40 states by at least 10%, costing households up to $79 billion. It would force many coal power plants to close down, cutting jobs and putting a squeeze on our most abundant and affordable source of energy. CPP greatly exceeds the authority Congress gave EPA. By requiring carbon capture and sequestration technology, EPA’s new power plant rule forces an industry to do something that’s technologically impossible.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. EPA also stepped beyond its authority on WOTUS, which expands federal jurisdiction over land features so much that simple roadside ditches would become federally regulated tributaries. The rule has left landowners and businesses uncertain about what they can do with their property, and it was finalized without the required regulatory impact analyses or consultations with states or affected stakeholders. EPA even improperly conducted grassroots lobbying to gain public support for WOTUS.

Americans respect our system of checks and balances and deserve a regulatory system that does too. Without it, rules are unfair, impractical, costly to businesses of all sizes, and fail to protect everyone’s rights.

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.