Amidst GOP Anti-Regulatory Budget Riders, a Familiar Plan for Paralysis by Analysis

by James Goodwin

July 28, 2011

House Republicans are fond of accusing the Obama Administration of trying to “regulate when it cannot legislate.” With a slight modification, a similar accusation can be hurled at House Republicans: They are trying to appropriate when they cannot legislate. This accusation has the benefit of actually being true.

The Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill for the EPA and the Department of Interior, currently being debated in the People’s House, is loaded down with dozens of anti-environment and anti-public safety policy riders.   Several of these riders are virtually identical to bills that have been considered or are being considered in the House, but which have no chance of passing the Senate or surviving a presidential veto. These riders include a measure that prohibits the EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste (Section 434), blocks the EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases (Section 431), exempts offshore oil drilling facilities from several Clean Air Act requirements (Section 443), among others.

None of these policy riders would save the American taxpayer a single dime. They do, however, offer House Republicans a better chance to advance their anti-regulatory agenda than would a stand-alone bill—a wildly inappropriate end-run around the constitutionally mandated legislative process designed to provide their corporate benefactors with benefits that would otherwise be opposed by the majority of Americans.

One of these riders that warrants special attention can be found in Section 462 (page 151). It sounds more innocuous than many of the others, because it does not outright block a regulation – yet it is hardly less serious in purpose or effect.  It requires the EPA to conduct a new detailed study of the various economic impacts of several of its rules, including the utility MACT rule (a rule to limit hazardous pollutants from power plants) and the interstate transport rule (a rule to limit pollution from power plants that drifts into neighboring states). Sound familiar? That’s because much of the language of this rider has been lifted straight from the TRAIN Act, an anti-regulatory favorite among the House GOP that has zero chance of passing the Senate. The rider adds an additional kicker: It prohibits the EPA from taking any action on the utility MACT and interstate transport rules until six months after the agency has completed the study. This prohibition is particularly troublesome in the case of the interstate transport rule, since the EPA already issued the final rule earlier this month. Accordingly, the rider retroactively rewrites the rule, and stays its effective date until six months after the study is completed.

The problems with the TRAIN Act study are clear. It is tilted against regulation, because it does not consider benefits. It is unnecessary and largely duplicative, because the EPA’s rules must undergo a thorough cost-benefit analysis before they can be finalized anyway. It will produce results that are so uncertain as to be useless, because it requires analysis of a litany of unknowable information: the cost of energy in 20 years; how regulations that haven’t even been written yet will indirectly affect jobs; and so on. The appropriations rider replicates these problems as well. But, since it is tucked away in an appropriations bill, they will not receive the full scrutiny deserved. (I suspect that is that point.) And the rider even takes this one step further by making agency action on two critical regulatory safeguards contingent upon the completion of this flawed study.

Fortunately, some Democrats in the House are taking steps to defeat many of these riders. To his credit, President Obama has issued a strong veto threat against an appropriations bill that contains anti-regulatory riders. Let’s hope these efforts succeed in stopping House Republicans’ efforts to appropriate when they cannot legislate.

Tagged as: TRAIN Act
Be the first to comment on this entry.
We ask for your email address so that we may follow up with you, ask you to clarify your comment in some way, or perhaps alert you to someone else's response. Only the name you supply and your comment will be displayed on the site to the public. Our blog is a forum for the exchange of ideas, and we hope to foster intelligent, interesting and respectful discussion. We do not apply an ideological screen, however, we reserve the right to remove blog posts we deem inappropriate for any reason, but particularly for language that we deem to be in the nature of a personal attack or otherwise offensive. If we remove a comment you've posted, and you want to know why, ask us ( and we will tell you. If you see a post you regard as offensive, please let us know.

Also from James Goodwin

James Goodwin, J.D., M.P.P., is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. He joined CPR in May of 2008.

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015