One Lawmaker’s Plan to Reform the EPA


One Lawmaker’s Plan to Reform the EPA

Feb 10, 2017 3 min read

Former Research Fellow

Katie Tubb was a research fellow for energy and environmental issues at The Heritage Foundation.

Americans, or at least those on the left, have become so accustomed to a heavy-handed Environmental Protection Agency that any adjustment not in the direction of even greater expansion seems to them “revolutionary.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that Texas Rep. Sam Johnson’s efforts to bring sanity back to an expansive EPA are being drubbed as a hateful attempt to wipe out the entire agency.

Johnson recently reintroduced the Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act to the new Congress. The bill would end a number of EPA programs, including:

  • Greenhouse gas regulations, and a bevy of greenhouse gas reporting programs, funds, and initiatives.
  • A premature and excessively conservative ground-level ozone standard.
  • Programs that are priorities for only certain localities like the National Clean Diesel Campaign and environmental justice programs.
  • Regional EPA offices.
  • Grant programs that are mainly used to compensate for the excessive regulatory burden the EPA puts on states and localities.

This bill would save Americans billions of dollars. More importantly, it would restore freedom and responsibility to steward the environment back to states and individuals.

It seems that as the environment has gotten cleaner, the EPA has gotten more aggressive and expansive in its mission.

For example, air pollution has decreased dramatically since the EPA started keeping tabs in 1980. Ground-level ozone (smog) levels have fallen by 32 percent, nitrogen dioxide by 60 percent, carbon monoxide by 84 percent, and lead by 99 percent since 1980.

Yet the EPA now maintains a staff of 15,376 and a budget of $8.2 billion. That’s compared to a staff of 9,481 and a budget of $772 million 40 years ago, when one could argue the state of our air and water was less pristine than today.

Problems in the EPA have abounded. New EPA regulations finalized between 2009 and 2015 created new annual costs of $54 billion. That’s more than all other federal agencies combined, and it exceeded claimed benefits by orders of magnitude.

The EPA has proved unaccountable to Americans in the face of its own environmental mismanagement during the Gold King Mine spill.

It has not addressed glaring discrepancies in the underlying science for some of its regulations, and has even misrepresented data from its own scientists. The EPA also refuses to release to Congress the underlying (taxpayer-funded) data for major regulations like the ozone standard.

The EPA has encroached into areas that traditionally have belonged to the states, expanding its own regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as part of a controversial effort to mitigate global warming.

It now regulates, or is attempting to regulate, greenhouse gas emissions (particularly carbon dioxide) from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, and airplanes. This is despite both former EPA Administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy admitting that these regulations will have no impact on global temperatures.

As Heritage Foundation research fellow Daren Bakst further lists, the EPA has broken the law by:

  • Lobbying for its own “Waters of the U.S.” rule.
  • Publicly ridiculing opinions contrary to its own during a public comment period.
  • Aggressively pursuing an ozone standard that regulates near and below background levels.
  • Being unresponsive to Congress on the employment impacts of its regulations.
  • Developing massive regulations without (by its own admission) completing the necessary scientific research.

The EPA’s faults are many, and reforming this rogue agency should not be seen as revolutionary. It is in fact long overdue.

Leaving the EPA as it currently is—in effect, acquiescing to its extreme and aggressive expansion—is simply not an option.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal