Morgan Griffith: Cutting red tape

morgan griffithOur part of Virginia understands the damage that can be inflicted by excessive regulation. The War on Coal was largely waged in this manner, as the Obama administration’s EPA imposed layers of rules providing no benefit to the environment but imposing massive new costs on the coal industry.

The coal industry is not the only subject of overzealous regulation. After Hurricane Florence, I toured Floyd County to see flood damage with Sheriff Brian Craig and Board of Supervisors Chairman Lauren Yoder.

I was reminded that under the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, it appears that the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would call the shots over much of Floyd County as well as other mountainous farmland areas. WOTUS covers lands such as dry branches, puddles, and areas that get waterlogged after prolonged rain, whether they are flooded or not. This is the type of power that unelected bureaucrats have currently.

The numerous, arcane rules issued by the “alphabet soup” of federal regulators have enormous consequences for small businesses, from the restaurants to the nursing homes to the farms of our communities.

The costs of compliance are considerable, and penalties and fines for infractions, even those committed without ill intent, often far exceed the seriousness of the violation.

A local restaurant has been forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy for an infraction the owners didn’t understand and did not profit from. Other businesses have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for relatively minor infractions.

These types of unreasonable penalties suppress economic growth and kill jobs. They do not protect employees or clean up the environment. So the House of Representatives and the Trump Administration have gone to work cleaning up the federal rulebook.

I’ve been working on a bill that targets a textbook example of counterproductive regulation: the EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) permitting program.

NSR definitions require owners of certain factories and power plants to obtain permission when they want to upgrade. No one wants air pollution, but NSR’s burdens deter facility owners from making improvements that would actually reduce emissions. This state of affairs hurts jobs and economic growth while doing nothing to protect the environment.

My bill, the New Source Review Permitting Improvement Act of 2018, clarifies the rules so that upgrades to existing facilities would not need NSR permits unless they increase emissions. Businesses would have more certainty in planning for the future. They would be better positioned to invest in technologies that promote efficiency and reduce pollution. It’s a win for them and for the environment.

The New Source Review Permitting Improvement Act of 2018 passed the Environment Subcommittee in July, and I look forward to further action in promoting this commonsense regulatory reform.

Part of the problem with regulation is that the executive branch has grown accustomed to writing the rules without interference from the other branches of government. By reclaiming their authority, the legislative and judicial branches can check unneeded regulations.

The House has acted to fix a bad Supreme Court ruling that gave wide latitude to the executive branch. The ruling in the case Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., decided in 1984, declared that courts should accept an agency’s interpretation of federal law if the law is worded ambiguously and the interpretation is reasonable.

The practice of “Chevron deference,” as the ruling’s effect came to be called, effectively gave the executive branch broad new authority to write regulations.

Subjecting regulations to judicial review would force the executive branch to observe more closely the intent and language of laws passed by Congress. Regulations would have to respect statutes passed by the people’s representatives rather than the wishes of unelected bureaucrats.

I am an original cosponsor of a bill to end Chevron deference, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act. Its language was included in a bill I supported when it passed the House, the Regulatory Accountability Act, which included numerous other regulatory reforms.

This Congress was also the first to use the Congressional Review Act repeatedly to undo excessive regulations. Before 2017, the act had only been used successfully once; during 2017-18, it was used successfully sixteen times.

Some Ninth District manufacturers have told me that regulatory relief in particular contributes to their success. Along with tax cuts, regulatory reform has fueled job creation and economic growth.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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