A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce (COC) study strongly criticizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for imposing unfunded federal mandates on states and industry for little benefit.
COC says the number of federal regulations and the associated costs have grown considerably during the past decade.
According to the study, released in August, although EPA makes the states responsible for 96.5 percent of the enforcement of federal environmental laws, the funding it grants to the states to cover enforcement costs has declined in recent years. Today, no state is reimbursed for more than 53 percent of its enforcement costs. Most states were reimbursed for less than 30 percent of what it cost them to enforce federal mandates they oversee, with some receiving less than 15 percent of their costs reimbursed.
Feds Ignore Their Own Laws
The report also states EPA routinely fails to comply with the 1995 Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), which requires EPA and other federal government agencies to assess the effects new regulations have on state and local governments. EPA only provided the required assessment for six of 8,733 new regulations implemented from 2000 through 2015, according to the report’s authors.
The report’s authors also say the prevalence of “sue-and-settle” agreements between environmentalists and federal agencies is increasing. Sue-and-settle is particularly problematic because agencies, especially EPA, often accept these lawsuits “from outside advocacy groups that [redirect] the priorities and responsibilities of the agency through legally binding, court-approved settlements negotiated behind closed doors—with no participation by other affected parties, including states, or the public.”
The report also found EPA has failed to adequately consult with state regulatory agencies when developing new regulations, deciding upon the types of actions allowed to meet new standards, or when accepting settlement agreements, despite such consultations being required under various environmental laws.
The report also found under the Obama administration, EPA has rejected a growing number of state implementation plans, substituting its own Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) in their place, essentially taking over many state environmental programs and undermining federalism.
EPA under Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush substituted federal FIPs for state implementation plans fewer than 10 times combined, while President Barack Obama’s EPA has imposed more than 50 FIPs on the states. According to various laws, the federal government is supposed to set standards, but the states are tasked with determining how best to meet those standards.
Imposing Huge Costs
Texas state Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), chair of the Texas House State and Federal Power and Responsibility Select Committee, says EPA is oblivious to the huge costs it is imposing on states and businesses with its new regulations.
“Ninety percent of all the laws, rules, and regulations coming from EPA are coming from an agency whose employees for the most part don’t understand the difficulty a state has in carrying out its responsibilities,” King said. “And on top of that, they certainly have not been in the business world and [do not] understand how at the end of the day that translates into such an incredible burden for business owners, property owners, families, and whoever is affected by the rules.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has sued the federal government and EPA numerous times in recent years, says federal regulations go beyond what the law allows and says the COC report is a powerful indictment of EPA’s actions.
“This [COC] report underscores the costs of this runaway agency to Americans who have long-suffered the effects of over-regulation,” said Paxton. “The EPA has clearly exceeded its authority in imposing a multitude of new rules, ignoring both the law and prior court decisions when it suits them.”
Mark Ramsey ([email protected]) writes from Houston, Texas.
William L. Kovacs, et al., “The Growing Burden of Unfunded EPA Mandates on the States,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 2016: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/the-growing-burden-of-unfunded–epa-mandates-on-the-states