Clear EPA’s Regulatory Haze, Industry Groups Plead

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By David Schultz

Industry groups are flooding the EPA with suggestions for air regulations they say should be revised or repealed, hoping to capitalize on the deregulatory bent of the agency’s new leaders.

Groups representing electric utilities, oil refiners, motorcycle manufacturers and even paint makers all weighed in during an April 24 Environmental Protection Agency listening session devoted to the economic impact of air regulations. Their comments were largely devoid of any unifying theme as each industry group pinpointed granular, often obscure rules that have specific impacts on their respective companies.

Fulfilling all, or even most, of these deregulatory requests would impose a significant workload on the EPA, one the agency may not be able to meet as it plans for major staff reductions later this year.

Targeted Regulations

In addition to industry groups, environmental activists and other members of the public also chimed in to the EPA’s listening session, the first of eight it’s planning to hold in the coming weeks.

While the message from activist groups was largely consistent—that the agency’s air quality measures have important public health benefits—the industry groups’ demands were far more varied.

Several criticized the burden placed on them by greenhouse gas reporting requirements. Others asked the EPA to allow industrial facilities to avoid continued emissions regulations if they can reduce their air pollution below an annual threshold. Still others said the agency should prioritize a rollback in its ozone pollution standards.

In one instance, two different groups contradicted each other. The American Petroleum Institute (API) said the agency should repeal its biofuel blending requirements, while the Renewable Fuels Association asked it to do the opposite and called API’s claim about technical limitations on fuel blending “a fiction.”

Reduced Bandwidth

To repeal almost all of the measures cited by the industry groups, the EPA will need to go through the formal federal rulemaking process that routinely takes agencies years to complete. After formally proposing a repeal measure, the EPA will then have to solicit comments from the public, then analyze and respond to those comments before finalizing any measure.

An error at any stage of this process could leave the repeal open to a court challenge. A loss in one of these challenges could effectively negate all the work the EPA had previously put into repealing a regulation.

Meanwhile, as industry groups make their disparate requests, the EPA is preparing to cut its budget and reduce its payroll by historic amounts.

A preliminary budget proposal from the White House for the coming fiscal year would eliminate 3,200 positions from the agency, which currently has a workforce of about 15,000. Additionally, the EPA announced earlier this month that it would extend a planned 90-day hiring freeze indefinitely and also begin a program of early retirements and buy outs.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Schultz in Washington at dSchultz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Environment & Energy Report