The public overwhelmingly wants existing regulations to be left alone.
President Trump has made it clear that he does not care much about red tape, regulations, restrictions or anything that gets in the way of doing business. Among his early moves was an executive order instructing all governmental agencies to re-examine existing regulations with the intent to eliminate all that discourage job creation and/or impose costs that exceed benefits. He has also said that for every new regulation on the books two existing regulations must be taken off.
Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new administrator decided to follow the President’s order. Assuming that everyone else agrees with him and the President, Pruitt put a call for comments to anyone who wanted to comment asking what regulations needed to be repealed, replaced, modified or removed from the EPA’s roster. His expectation was that he would only get a handful of comments and most would complain about the overwhelming cost and burden of regulation killing their business and getting in the way of their livelihood.
He was in for not just one but two surprises:
- First, was the sheer number of comments received: 55,100 by mid May 2017, the deadline for submitting comments; and
- Second, and even more surprising, was the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who bothered to comment basically said the EPA should leave the existing regulations alone.
Surely not what Pruitt had expected or wanted to hear. And this editor suspects not the kind of feedback he would want to share with the President, or anyone else, for that matter.
As reported in a 16 May article in The Washington Post, a large number of Americans recalled their experiences of growing up with dirty air and water. They pleaded to EPA not to undue the safeguards that could return the country to its polluted past.
Few noteworthy excerpts from the comments received as reported by The Washington Post:
- “Environmental regulations came about for a reason;”
- “If anything, regulations need to be more stringent;”
- “Regulations are PROTECTIONS. Please enforce all existing clean air and water protections and consider creating more;”
- “So here are my thoughts on doing away with existing EPA regulations, or doing away with the EPA itself: ARE YOU BLOODY CRAZY?????”
- One commenter simply wrote the word “No” over and over, 1,665 times;
- “I implore you, as defenders of our nation’s health and security, to avoid shortsighted steps that might create prosperity for a few in the short term, at the expense of the many in the long term.”
To be fair, few smallish businesses complained about excessive and unnecessary regulations stifling their livelihood.
That is to be expected. If you ask any business owner how much regulation they want or need, the answer is inevitably as little as possible, preferably none.
Take away regulations, however, and many businesses will dump their waste in the air, water or soil – if they can get away with it. Labor safety and security will get lip service, if that, if there are no inspectors and no fines. If there are no speed limits and no cops enforcing them, drivers will speed, and fewer would wear safety belts. This explains why so few people want to go back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution when regulation did not exist.
Not surprisingly, the dominant message to the EPA, according to The Washington Post was do not “jettison protections for clean water and clean air in the name of reducing burdens on corporations.”
Dumbfounded by the comments received, EPA said a task force will examine the comments and submit a progress report to Pruitt. Don’t hold your breath.
In March 2017, EPA said it was withdrawing a requirement that operators of existing oil and gas wells to report any leakage of methane from their oil or gas wells since it was “burdensome and costly.” And Pruitt recently refused to ban a commonly used pesticide that the Obama Administration had sought to outlaw based on mounting concerns about its risks to human health.
Regulation may be costly, burdensome and seem unnecessary. Lack of regulation, however, could be even worse – and that is not a message that Pruitt is likely to draw from the feedback received.
About the author
Fereidoon Sioshansi is a long-time energy consultant and author. He is also editor and publisher of EEnergy Informer, a subscription-based monthly newsletter that has been around for many years. This article was first published in EEnergy Informer and is republished here with permission.
Sioshansi’s latest book project is Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge, published in June 2017. It contains articles by two dozen experts on “how distributed energy resources are disrupting the traditional utility business model”.
Photo Credit: Ozzy Delaney via Flickr