Policies to reduce regulation being advanced by the Trump administration have generated tremendous excitement among the most heavily regulated sectors. Industries that have fought for decades against federal rules—and, in particular, EPA rules—now see a rare opportunity to push for sweeping reductions of their environmental compliance burdens and actually see at least some of those changes happen. In light of the president’s Executive Order directing agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new regulation proposed or promulgated, some industry representatives have come forward with candidates for either elimination or modification. One list of 22 recommendations for the EPA was recently provided at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Environment by Ross Eisenberg, vice president of Energy and Resources Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
As Eisenberg sees it, the EPA and other federal agencies issuing environmental regulations find themselves with no option but to violate laws written in the 1960s and 1970s because those laws are ill-equipped to address contemporary environmental issues, industrial practices, and economic issues.
“History is littered with a long list of ‘creative’ EPA regulations that have been held up by the courts, including Bush-era programs like the Clean Air Interstate Rule and Clean Air Mercury Rule and Obama-era regulations like the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States,” testified Eisenberg. “The NAM recommends that Congress modernize outdated environmental laws written in the 1960s and 1970s and make them perform better, or require federal agencies to regulate environmental challenges better—or both. We understand these are not simple tasks. Neither was modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which this Committee accomplished just last year.”
CAA Needs Most Work
Eisenberg’s recommendations, which focused mainly on the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA), include the following:
- Modify the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) review cycle to more closely align with the pace of implementation of existing standards, and consider cost and technological feasibility when conducting NAAQS policy assessments and during implementation.
- Amend CAA Section 179B to more clearly provide relief for states that cannot meet the NAAQS due to contributions from emissions from outside the United States.
- Simplify CAA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) process to provide certainty for manufacturers that they are in compliance with the law. The NSPS should be set using criteria that ensure optimal cost-effectiveness and do not hinder economic growth. The EPA should also allow adequate timing to demonstrate compliance once an NSPS is triggered.
- Cease using social cost of carbon, social cost of methane, and social cost of nitrogen oxides (NOx) calculations until they are subjected to a rigorous, unbiased third-party review and revised accordingly.
- Improve the New Source Review (NSR) process to reduce barriers to installation of energy-efficient technologies.
- Reinforce local responsibility by clearly defining waters covered under the CWA.
- Foster cooperation by providing a means of just compensation to private property owners for regulatory takings that result from the CWA or other environmental laws.
- Ensure that state governments retain the principal control and management responsibility for groundwater.
Aim for a Balance
“To be truly sustainable means to commit not only to a strong environment but also a strong economy,” said Eisenberg. “For years, the scales have consistently been tipped too far in one direction or the other. Environmental laws and regulations should be designed to ensure they are effective in achieving their desired objectives without creating unnecessary adverse economic or social impacts.”
Eisenberg’s testimony is here.