Conspicuously Absent from EPA’s Regulatory Priorities: “Doing Our Job”

by William Yeatman on December 2, 2013

in Blog

Last week the Office of Management and Budget Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs published the Fall 2013 Current Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, a twice-yearly summary of regulatory priorities as determined by each executive agency.

EPA’s Fall 2013 Statement of Priorities is notable for what makes the list, but especially so for what is left off it. The agency’s priorities are:

  • making a visible difference in communities across the country;
  • addressing climate change and improving air quality;
  • taking action on toxics and chemical safety;
  • protecting water: a precious, limited resource;
  • launching a new era of state, tribal and local partnership; and
  • working toward a sustainable future.

The first priority—“making a visible difference in communities across the country”—sounds scary to me. I’d rather not encounter EPA meddlers like Walter Peck. Keep the green police out of my neighborhood.

bwpEPA’s second priority—“addressing climate change and improving air quality”—is misleading, because the agency itself concedes that its climate change regulations won’t engender a discernible difference,** due to the fact that the preponderance of present and future emissions originate in other countries where EPA has no authority.

The third priority—“taking action on toxics and chemical safety”—also is cause for suspicion, given that EPA’s foremost action on toxics to date, the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, was an absurd, politically motivated regulation that cost $10 billion/year, in order to protect a supposed population of fisherwomen who consume 200 pounds of self-caught fish, from exclusively the most polluted freshwater bodies, during their pregnancies.

The fourth priority—“protecting water: a precious, limited resource”—is, in fact, a raw power grab.

The fifth priority—“launching a new era of state, tribal and local partnership”—is Orwellian boilerplate, as it imparts the opposite of reality. In fact, this administration’s EPA has seized the States’ rightful priorities under the cooperative federalism scheme of environmental regulation created by Congress.

And the sixth priority—“ working toward a sustainable future”—is empty enviro’ mumbo-jumbo.

So, EPA’s 2013 Statement of Priorities is a mess, establishing goals that range from frightening to pointless. However, the truly noteworthy aspect of the list is what it omits: Namely, an EPA priority along the lines of “doing our job.” As I explain in a recent paper, EPA has a woeful record meeting statutory deadlines for regulatory action, which are the agency’s priorities as dictated by Congress. Since 1993, for example, 98 percent of EPA regulations (196 out of 200) pursuant to three core Clean Air Act programs were promulgated late, by an average of 2,072 days after their respective statutorily defined deadlines.

Rather than abide by the mushy list enumerated in the Unified Agenda, it would be far better if the agency gave priority to effectuating the will of the nation’s elected representatives. That is, it would be ideal if the agency deigned to do its job.

** Consider the following exchange between Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy during a September 18 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, in which she concedes that none of EPA’s climate regulations will have a discernible impact on the climate.

Rep. Pompeo: And on your website you have 26 indicators use for tracking climate change. They identify various impacts of climate change, so you would believe that the purpose of these rules is the impact of those 26 indicators, right? So, you put a good greenhouse gas rule in place, you’ll get a good outcome on at least some or all of those 26 indicators…Do you think it’d be reasonable taking the regulations you promulgate and link them to those 26 indicators that you have on your website?

Administrator McCarthy: No, as … It’s unlikely that any specific one step is going to be seen as having a visible impact on any of those impacts, a visible change in any of those impacts.

Rick Sparks December 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm

You’re right. The EPA has become very creepy. None of the things they prioritize are bad (except maybe the phantom climate change), but how they plan to implement these things should make freedom loving people very concerned. Thanks for the great article.

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