Don't Forget the Job Killing EPA, Mr. Obama

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WASHINGTON-President Obama, in a preface last Friday to his speech tonight on creating jobs, instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to refrain from adopting stricter standards on ozone. He did so right after the Labor Department reported that in August, there was no net growth of jobs in the United States. None. A dismal report.

Mr. Obama's action amounted to an admission that imposing new, more costly regulatory requirements on business may conflict with hiring additional workers, now most Americans' primary policy goal. In an address to a joint session of Congress this evening (7 p.m. Eastern time), the president will seek to lay out credible proposals for spurring hiring.

He could take a long step in that direction by putting a hold on the other 308 rules pending on the EPA's docket.

Many are unneeded. Our air and water are getting cleaner as new equipment replaces old. With zero job gains in August, a persistently high unemployment rate, and a low rate of GDP growth, now is not the time for new environmental regulations, which affect large and small businesses, raise costs and discourage hiring.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) included seven proposed EPA regulations in his list of 10 job killing regulations last month. One of them was the ozone regulation. Others had to do with utilities, boilers, cement, coal ash, farm dust, and greenhouse gases.

For example, EPA's new boiler rules would make electricity generation far more complicated and expensive even as Mr. Obama wants to put more electric cars on the road. Power plants and boilers would be required to limit their emissions of "heavy metals," including mercury, arsenic, chromium, and nickel, and of acid gases, such as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride.

These rules, like others, require "maximum achievable control technology," meaning that plants have to use the most stringent methods available to remove heavy metals from the air, regardless of costs and benefits. Removing such particulates from the air that we breathe seems desirable, but the regulation does not take adequate account of cost.

A list of the 308 rules can be found in the EPA section of the government's regulatory agenda, at The list includes rules in all stages of development, such as "Prerule," "Proposed Rule," "Final rule," and "Long Term Action." Not counted in the rules under development are an additional three dozen listed as "Completed Action."

In blocking the ozone rule, Mr. Obama declared, "I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover. With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time."

The new rule would have tightened the requirements for ozone allowed in the air from the current standard of 84 parts per billion to 60 to 70 parts per billion. President George W. Bush had proposed 75 parts per billion. The 60 parts per billion standard would have put 85 percent of American counties with ozone monitors out of attainment.

Such counties would have to pursue compliance by restricting industrial activity, such as manufacturing and energy production and infrastructure construction, potentially costing $20 billion to $90 billion a year, according to EPA.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Cantor are to be congratulated for addressing these barriers to growth. Mr. Obama merits special praise for taking a stand against environmentalists, which form an important part of his Democratic base.

But why stop at one regulation or seven? Why not put a hold on more regulations? They create a climate of uncertainty, damaging economic growth and employment, and inhibiting employers and investors.

It's clear that major rules such as clean-air transport, utilities, and boilers reduce hiring. It's not so obvious that, in addition, hundreds of obscure rules also affect employment.

Take Rule 2070-AJ74, Revision to Compliance Date for Pesticide Container/Containment Rule, put out by EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, which extends the date for updating pesticide container labels.

The rule came about, as the EPA states, because "while there has been significant progress in the number of pesticide labels that have been updated with the container management statements required by the container-containment regulations, EPA has recently become aware that there are still a substantial number of products whose labels must be submitted to EPA, reviewed and approved by EPA, and reviewed and approved by the States."

That means that there are manufacturers whose labels haven't been processed by EPA or the states. A regulatory bottleneck. Somewhere, a producer may be thinking that he won't be able to sell his pesticides because a government agency hasn't approved a label he submitted. He has to work out how to change the label so it passes inspection. Some producers will choose others lines of business.

Or, consider Rule 2040-AF20, Revised Regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, issued by EPA's Office of Water. This rule is not classified as major, and the legal authority is "not yet determined." Its priority is listed as "substantive, nonsignificant," even though these terms seem to contradict each other.

Still, it's going to make life harder for farmers, because it will potentially tell them how they should feed their cattle. It will expand federal jurisdiction over the feeding of cattle and disposal of cattle manure, both in the Chesapeake Bay area and nationally.

This means is that EPA will tell farmers in the Chesapeake Bay and nationally what they should be feeding their cattle and what to do with cattle droppings. Not only do farmers have to cope with the July drought and the August flooding, but also what EPA tells them to do with food and manure.

As Mr. Obama addresses Congress and the nation tonight with proposals purportedly to create jobs in America , thousands of federal workers are quietly working around the clock in Washington in ways that would unintentionally destroy jobs. The president could create jobs with one simple sentence tonight: "I hereby announce a moratorium on all new federal regulations during the remainder of my term in office."

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is senior fellow and director of Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute. Follow her on Twitter: @FurchtgottRoth.   

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