After vital moves, US stays on course for overregulation

Despite welcome moves to corral environmental zealots, the Obama administration remains committed to regulation in general.

The new efforts are important, though.

On Aug. 26, the Department of State issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the oil sands region of Alberta with Gulf Coast refineries. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency had recommended changes to a supplemental EIS that easily could have delayed issuance of the final document for many months.

The stiff-arm to EPA suggests State will approve the project.

Now the White House is jerking EPA’s reins on ozone. The agency wanted to toughen standards in ways that might have cost US businesses $90 billion/year.

EPA toughened ozone standards in 2008, and clean-air laws don’t call for reconsideration until 2013. EPA reconsidered, anyway, forcing businesses to worry about new costs now and in a couple of years.

Because ozone pollution is abating and unemployment is a larger and more immediate problem, especially in the run-up to an election year, the White House told EPA to stand down.

It should do likewise with a dozen or so other issues at EPA but probably will not. Its environmentalist supporters are furious over Keystone XL and ozone.

Two right moves aside, this administration likes to regulate and has proven willing to invest heavily in the enterprise.

A May report by the Washington University, St. Louis, and George Washington University, Washington, DC, noted that Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2012 called for an increase in regulatory spending to $57.3 billion from an estimated $55 billion a year earlier. The estimated 2011 outlay fell below that year’s budget request because spending remained subject to continuing resolutions until April. But it was still up 4.3% from fiscal 2010, after inflation adjustment.

When he announced the ozone reversal, Obama said, “I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”

So why raise spending on regulators?

(Online Sept. 2, 2011; author’s e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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