EPA Tops List of Business Complaints to Congress
American businesses have a common enemy: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
ConocoPhillips, Boeing Co. and the National Association of Manufacturers are among 201 companies and industry groups that responded to Representative Darrell Issa’s request to identify government rules his U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should investigate. Of the 111 regulations they cited, 57 were issued by the EPA.
Rules to tighten ozone standards would “have far-reaching effects on the economy and jobs,” ConocoPhillips, the third- largest U.S. oil company, said in a list of more than two-dozen rules. Refinery projects are being delayed because of “prolonged uncertainty on emission-control technologies and work practice requirements,” said the Houston-based company, whose shares are up almost 49 percent over the last year.
Issa, who became chairman of the committee last month, plans today to release a report based on the letters he requested in December. According to copies obtained by Bloomberg, among the rules they complained about were pesticide permits, air-pollution standards, the Wall Street regulatory overhaul and a proposed Energy Department rule that aims to conserve water by restricting use of multi-head shower fixtures.
Last month, President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling for a government-wide review of regulations. Issa, who has accused the administration of ignoring business concerns, said in an e-mail last week he isn’t offering “judgments or recommendations.”
The effort is “meant to complement what the president has ordered and should be a starting point for a broader discussion,” said Issa, 57, a California Republican.
Democrats and consumer-advocacy groups say they are troubled that Issa didn’t ask consumer groups about the benefits of regulations, in particular those regarding air quality or food and product safety.
“Mr. Issa says we’re just interested in finding out which regulations are problematic for business, but they’re not interested in finding out how they help save Americans’ lives and health,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said the committee has asked on a website it created for input on where Washington “helps or hurts” with regard to regulations.
As part of Republicans’ focus on how government rules affect businesses, the House will consider a resolution Feb. 10 instructing 10 committees -- including Agriculture, Financial Services and Judiciary -- to investigate regulations that may impede job growth. Issa’s panel plans a hearing the same day on “regulatory impediments to job creation.”
Most of the letters to Issa’s committee were from trade associations like the National Mining Association and the Business Roundtable. They listed proposed regulations as well as those now in effect.
Boeing, based in Chicago, provided pages of details about the effects of rules such as a Securities and Exchange Commission requirement that companies report whether certain minerals used in their products were mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo or adjoining countries.
“These requirements will be extremely burdensome and costly, if not impossible, for a company like Boeing to comply with,” wrote Tim Keating, senior vice president of government operations at Boeing, whose shares have risen 20 percent over the last 12 months.
‘Major’ New Regulations
Robert E. Murray, president of privately held Murray Energy Corp. in Alledonia, Ohio, said the domestic coal industry might be harmed by EPA rules to limit greenhouse gases, flaws in Clean Water Act permits, and a proposed ruling on coal ash.
“It is a disaster to see our jobs eliminated in the coal mines for little or no environmental benefit,” Murray wrote.
Issa’s letter to the companies and trade groups said that in fiscal 2010 federal agencies created 43 “major” new regulations at an estimated cost of $28 billion.
More than 50 of those responding, mostly trade groups and companies like Toyota Motor North America and ConocoPhillips, cited concerns about rules to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. EPA rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants and oil refineries took effect Jan. 2 after Congress failed to agree on a plan to cap greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.
Thomas Lehner, vice president of government and industry affairs for Toyota Motor North America, cited the potential for an “unworkable patchwork of regulations” if state-level greenhouse-gas rules take effect.
A group of 20 trade associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Roundtable, targeted rules intended to prevent lead contamination during renovation and painting projects on homes, child-care facilities and schools built before 1978.
“That’s where they could really find themselves in big trouble,” said Sloan. “All of a sudden you’re causing every parent in America consternation.”
Bardella said Issa is not making any recommendations at this time and that he is not expecting anything related to “legitimate safety” to be repealed.
‘The Job Aspect’
William Kovacs, Chamber of Commerce senior vice president, said it’s hard to find workers who are trained on how to avoid lead contamination because such training isn’t widely available. “We tried to focus on the job aspect,” he said.
The chamber’s 10-page list said EPA proposals to crack down on hazards from industrial boilers, lead paint and coal ash are examples of the agency “attempting to modify, re-issue or re- interpret virtually every controversial environmental regulatory decision of the past decade.”
The Transportation Department’s proposal to reduce long- haul truckers’ driving shifts from 11 hours to 10 drew the ire of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the group representing small fleets, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
The department’s scientific data to justify the rulemaking as a safety initiative “isn’t strong,” so it is instead engaging in “public commentary on poor truck driver health,” the manufacturers’ association said, adding that 80 percent of U.S. freight moves by truck. The regulation would cost industry $2 billion, NAM said.
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