Pat Toomey: Overzelous State Agency Threatens Pa. Jobs

Bucks County Courier Times

Over the past six months I have traveled across Pennsylvania, and I have heard the same thing from farmers, manufacturers and job creators all across the commonwealth: Tell the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop breathing down our necks.

These folks care about our environment and support reasonable standards, but they struggle to keep their businesses running, provide for their families and make payroll for their employees.

The EPA has a wide-ranging scope of authority over many sectors of the U.S. economy. From heavy manufacturers to family farms to small businesses struggling to get off the ground, these job creators have been bombarded by a deluge of new EPA regulations and mandates. Under President Obama’s administration, the EPA has promulgated new regulations governing greenhouse gases, industrial boilers, cement kilns, dust and spilled milk, just to name a few.

You might be thinking: What does the Environmental Protection Agency have to do with spilled milk or cement? Good question.

Take Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. In January 2009, the EPA issued a rule that treated spilled milk as a pollutant under the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, intended to prevent oil spills in our water and on our shorelines. The EPA argued that the fat contained in milk put it in the same category as regulated oils. This convoluted reasoning would have subjected Pennsylvania’s dairy producers and farmers to billions of dollars in new costs had the EPA not agreed to delay the regulation at Congress’ urging.

In another case, the EPA targeted the cement industry. It may not be the biggest industry in Pennsylvania, but it employs 2,000 workers in 11 cement plants, seven of which are located in the Lehigh Valley area. In May 2009, the EPA finalized new rules requiring the cement industry to adhere to higher emissions standards, with little regard as to whether these standards are realistically achievable. The industry estimates that these new mandates will impose as much as $3.4 billion in compliance costs during the next two years.

I was astounded to learn that the EPA does not consider the jobs impact of any new regulation, guidance statement or permit denial as a matter of policy. Before the EPA institutes a new rule, wouldn’t common sense dictate that the agency analyze the potential negative consequences of its proposed rules?

I would argue yes. That is why I introduced legislation, called the Employment Protection Act, which will require the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the jobs impact of any new regulation, new policy statement or permit denial.

The Employment Protection Act seeks to protect Pennsylvania jobs by requiring the EPA to issue its regulations in a responsible and thoughtful process. Before issuing any regulation, the EPA must release a publicly available jobs analysis that will be audited by the Government Accountability Office. If the proposed action will displace jobs or economic activity, the EPA must notify the governor, congressional delegation and Legislature of all affected states and hold field hearings before the proposed action can go into effect. This will give lawmakers the ability to properly weigh the costs and benefits of regulatory actions before they go into effect.

I believe Pennsylvania and the country deserve a booming recovery, but that won’t happen so long as the EPA continues to impose new, excessive burdens and red tape on our farms, manufacturers and other important industries. The Employment Protection Act will force the EPA to take a more balanced approach and start considering the economic impact of their regulatory decisions.

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