Michael Zimmer: Consider impact of regulations

I have long been an admirer of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. The right-leaning dailycaller.com website published an article earlier this week featuring a bill he's introduced that would force the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce its own rules by reporting the costs of agency regulations in terms of economic impact.

Until the EPA catches up with the legal requirement to report on the economic costs of past regulations, the bill would block the agency from creating any new major rules.

"Americans are not as aware of the costs that have come from the regulations of this administration," Inhofe told reporters on a conference call. He added his opinion that the EPA's rule-making was "putting people out of business."

The article suggests that Section 321(a) of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to report real economic impacts. Inhofe believes his bill "would put teeth in Section 321(a)."

The senator shared a number of examples of the Obama administration's push for new costly regulation without fully measuring the cost to our economy. He cited a utility regulation that the EPA claimed would create 46,000 temporary jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs.

A separate analysis by the National Economic Research Associates, a consulting firm, found that the overall economy would suffer up to 215,000 lost jobs in 2014 and an additional 85,000 lost jobs on an annual basis.

We've seen similar battle lines drawn closer to home in Maryland. The goal of improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay is one that just about everyone can embrace.

However, it gets tricky when we consider what concrete action steps should be taken in pursuit of this goal. We have to consider who will pay the costs associated with cleanup efforts. We have to consider what steps give us the most bang for the buck and whose bucks will be going toward those costs.

Different gubernatorial administrations of both parties have tried different approaches. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. instituted the flush tax. Not to be outdone, Gov. Martin O'Malley brought the rain tax to some of our more populous counties.

Both Carroll and Frederick counties' boards of commissioners figured out how to get around passing a rain tax on property owners.

I would like to hear more about how all the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are pulling their weight in boosting water quality. We need to know more about how sediment built up over time behind the Conowingo Dam impacts the bay during major storm events. It would be nice to hear some practical solutions to these conditions as well.

In consideration of an economy struggling to produce jobs, maybe we need to give major overhauls of environmental regulation a pause for a year or two. I have a feeling that county and municipal staff who often have the front line duty of enforcing a host of regulations would benefit from such a pause.

Inhofe is well known for his efforts to oppose both legislation and regulation aimed at addressing global warming, or climate change if you prefer that term. His view is such laws and rules would add large costs to our economy but have little impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Inhofe has suggested that new laws in this area would lead to even more manufacturing jobs being shifted to China. That country has relatively few environmental restrictions compared to the U.S. This could have a net effect of increasing rather than decreasing total emissions.

I am proud of both national elected officials and local elected officials who are trying to figure out what practical steps we can take to benefit both our natural environment and our economic environment.

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