When Congress returns from recess next week, the political conversation is going to be all about jobs. As President Obama prepares to outline his “very specific” jobs proposal in a speech, House Republicans are readying a plan of their own. A key element to the GOP jobs agenda will be identifying and eliminating federal regulations that are needlessly burdening business owners and in many cases preventing them from hiring new employees. To that end, House committee chairmen have put together a list of “the 10 most harmful job-destroying regulations,” and plan to take action over the coming weeks and months to repeal or forestall these restrictive measures.
The following ten federal regulations — some of them pending, some of them already in effect — are, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), “reflective of the types of costly bureaucratic handcuffs that Washington has forced upon business people who want to create jobs.”
NLRB’s Boeing Complaint
In April, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel issued a complaint against the Boeing company challenging the airline manufacturer’s decision to open a new plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The general counsel claims the move was an unlawful “retaliation” against the unionized workforce at Boeing’s existing plant in Washington State. Despite the fact that no union workers have lost their jobs as a result of the decision, the NLRB is seeking a “restoration order” against Boeing that would force a return to the status quo ante, giving unions the ability to bargain for a new plant in Washington. Meanwhile, Boeing has already invested some $2 billion in the South Carolina plant and created more than 2,000 jobs, all of which has been put at risk by the NLRB’s actions. Because Boeing will now have to spend millions defending itself in court, the ruling is likely to deter future investment and job creation across the country. Freshman Rep. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) has sponsored the Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, which would stop the complaint from proceeding. The House plans to vote on the bill shortly after they return in September.
MACT and CSAPR Utility Standards
The Obama administration has proposed new maximum-achievable-control-technology (MACT) standards and a cross-state air-pollution rule (CSAPR) for utility plants that will have a direct impact on utilities prices across the country. The new rules will affect more that 1,000 fossil-fuel-fired power plants, a number of which will likely be forced to shut down. As a result, Americans in many parts of the country could find themselves paying anywhere from 12 to 24 percent more for electricity. The House will vote next month on the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act, sponsored by Rep. John Sullivan (R., Okla.), which would mandate a cumulative economic analysis for regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and delay implementation of the new utility standards until the full impact of the administration’s regulatory agenda can be sufficiently analyzed.
Boiler MACT Rules
The EPA’s new “boiler MACT” rules would impose stricter emissions standards for some 200,000 commercial, institutional, and industrial boilers nationwide, and stand to dramatically impact the thousands of American businesses — from hospitals to factories to universities — that use them. EPA officials estimated the cost of the new rules at about $10 billion, though others predict the true cost will be almost double that figure. The U.S. Small Business Administration warned that the rules would cause “significant new regulatory costs” for businesses, institutions, and municipalities across the country, with the American forest and paper industry alone expected to see an additional burden of at least $5–7 billion in new capital and compliance costs. A U.S. Commerce Department analysis predicted job losses of up to 60,000 as a result of the stricter requirements — much greater than the EPA had initially claimed — while some estimates put the job loss figure at closer to 200,000. The EPA Regulatory Relief Act, sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R., Va.), would impose a stay on four related EPA regulations issued earlier this year and give the agency more time to issue new, less onerous rules. The House will vote on the bill in early October.
Cement MACT Requirements
The EPA’s “cement MACT” requirement and two related rules would set stringent new emissions standards affecting nearly 100 cement plants across the country, many of which would be cost-prohibitive or, in some cases, effectively impossible to meet. The resulting higher costs would almost certainly lead to layoffs and offshored jobs in an industry that is (literally) the foundation for nearly all domestic infrastructure projects. In fact, it’s already happening. Residents of Raglan, Ala., recently saw construction on a $350 million cement production facility suspended, putting 1,500 jobs on hold and the forthcoming additional jobs at the plant itself at risk. The House plans to vote in October on the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, also sponsored by Represenative Sullivan, which would stay the imposition of these rules and give the EPA sufficient time to make revisions.
‘Coal Ash’ Regulations
The EPA has, for the first time ever, proposed national restrictions on coal ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants. Utility and power producers predict the cost of these rules will exceed $100 billion and force them to retire about one-fifth of the nation’s coal capacity, which could mean the loss of well over 100,000 jobs. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which conducts policy research for lawmakers, says that the new restrictions are likely to force many coal plants to shut down between now and 2017. Rep. David McKinley (R., W.Va.) has sponsored legislation that would create a minimum standard for coal ash and would allow states to impose further regulations of their own as they see fit. The House plans to take up McKinley’s bill in late October.
Grandfathered Health Plans
In theory, Obamacare exempts certain “grandfathered” insurance policies from some, but not all, of its regulatory mandates. In practice, the new restrictions will, by the administration’s own estimates, result in the loss of 49 to 80 percent of small-employer plans, 34 to 64 percent of large-employer plans, and 40 to 67 percent of individual plans, driving millions of Americans into government-subsidized coverage through the soon-to-be-created health-care “exchanges.” Employers who are unable to retain their grandfathered status will be subject to steep penalties and increasing costs, which will discourage new hiring. The Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Workforce committees are currently drafting legislation to roll back these restrictions, to be voted on later this year.
EPA Ozone Rule
His cap-and-trade legislation having failed to win the support of Congress, President Obama has sought to push ahead with his environmental agenda through the EPA and the creation of strict new ozone-pollution standards. Many Republicans view this as the single most harmful regulation proposed by the administration and estimate that the total cost of implementation will be at least $1 trillion over a decade and millions of jobs. The EPA is expected to propose a readjustment of the regulatory standard for ozone from its current level of 0.075 parts per million (ppm) down to somewhere in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm. Despite the fact that the normal EPA procedure doesn’t call for a review of ozone standards until 2013, the agency is expected to introduce the new rule early this fall, at which point the House Energy and Commerce Committee will take swift action to forestall its implementation.
EPA Farm-Dust Regulations
The EPA is expected to issue revised standards for “coarse particulate matter” (i.e., dust) in the near future. While the agency’s scientific panel said that the science of measuring dust particles remains uncertain, it then concluded that it would be justified in either retaining the current regulatory standards or tightening them by half. Concerns over stricter rules abound in the agricultural community, as evidenced by the farmer in Atkinson, Ill., who raised the issue at one of President Obama’s town-hall events earlier this month. Farmers are well aware of the health risks associated with high levels of dust, but contend that mere “common sense,” as opposed to burdensome regulations, is sufficient to combat these risks. Stricter rules, for example, could force farmers to resort to unreasonable and expensive dust-control measures such as constantly watering down gravel and dirt roads. The House will vote later this year on the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.). The bill would establish a one-year prohibition against revising any national ambient-air-quality standard applicable to coarse particulate matter and limiting federal regulation of dust where it is already regulated under state and local laws.
EPA Greenhouse-Gas Requirements
As part of the Obama administration’s wildly ambitious goal to reduce America’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020, the EPA is expected to revise its greenhouse-gas new source performance standards (NSPS), which impact all new and existing oil, natural-gas, and coal-fired power plants, as well as oil refineries, across the nation. Furthermore, the EPA and the Department of Transportation have jointly conceived new regulations that would — for the first time ever — require stricter emissions and mileage standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. These new standards would affect everything from delivery vans to full-size pickups and buses. According to an analysis by Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wy.), the new rules would cost consumers an additional $1,000 per vehicle, at a total cost of more than $8 billion. As with the aforementioned ozone restrictions, chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and the Energy and Commerce Committee are expected to take preventative action as soon as the new regulations are introduced.
NLRB ‘Ambush’ Elections Rule
Just as Obama has sought to impose his environmental agenda through the EPA, so he has attempted to appease Big Labor through executive fiat following the defeat in Congress of “card check” legislation. This summer, the NLRB proposed a series of new rules that would dramatically alter union-election procedures — for example, by allowing for “ambush” elections that would give employers as little as ten days to present their case to employees. If enacted, these new rules would result in increased labor costs and uncertainty for private-sector employers across the country. The House plans to consider legislation soon that would roll them back.
— Andrew Stiles is the Franklin Center’s 2011 Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow.