While Congress is often seen as a body in constant conflict, there are many broad principles we can all agree on, like the need for a thriving economy so American workers and businesses can remain competitive on the global stage.
Too often, this shared goal is framed to be at odds with the importance of a clean and healthy environment for this and future generations.
These ideas don't have to be mutually exclusive, but they do need to find a balance. That's why many projects that present opportunities for economic growth must undergo layers of rigorous environmental impact studies before breaking ground.
And it’s also why Congress requires ongoing employment impact analyses of rules and regulations enforced by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These are made to safeguard the important principles that are all too often portrayed as incompatible.
Unfortunately, these safeguards are not always followed.
For example, despite federal requirements directing EPA to disclose the impact its rules have on jobs, the agency has intentionally dodged or distorted these requirements. So last week, I co-sponsored legislation that would prohibit EPA from finalizing any major regulations until the agency complies with the required jobs impact analyses for its existing regulations.
The Clean Air Act, policy intended to regulate air quality, states that “the Administration shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment” related to EPA’s regulations under the law. This is nothing new.
Congress made clear the intent of these reporting requirements in 1977, but when I asked EPA’s Administrator the results of these evaluations, I was told EPA chose not to explore those impacts. Agency officials said they interpreted this portion of the law to be optional rather than mandatory. Therefore, they had not conducted analyses on the jobs impact of their agency’s rules, and didn’t express any plans to change that interpretation.
Meanwhile, business owners from a broad swath of industries report that EPA’s mounting list of regulations is hampering job growth and expansion in the middle of a widespread jobs drought. EPA disputes these claims in defense of its regulatory agenda, but curiously, chooses not to do the jobs impact analyses directed by the law, that would either vindicate or undermine its actions.
The fact is that EPA and other federal agencies have dramatically expanded their regulatory reach, especially over the last five years, and many job creators are feeling restrained by overbearing federal requirements. Businesses poised to expand are opting to maintain the status quo in the face of uncertainty created by more red tape and increased compliance costs.
The true ongoing employment impact of EPA’s agenda should be a matter of public record.
If this administration’s onslaught of regulations is hurting Americans’ abilities to find good jobs, we should know about it, and work to find a solution. The legislation I cosponsored simply holds EPA accountable for information it should have been producing all along. This information is important, and in the midst of a sluggish job market, it is certainly worth exploring the economic impact of both existing and new federal requirements.