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Bill Kovacs: Unfunded Mandates Undermine the Constitution, State Autonomy and Our Economic Well-Being

October 4, 2016

A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study shows the Obama administration is ignoring the law by imposing an increasing number of unfunded mandates on the states without first assessing their economic impact or carrying out a required cost benefit analysis.

William Kovacs, senior vice president for Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined Heartland's H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the Chamber's August 17 paper titled “The Growing Burden of Unfunded EPA Mandates on the States.”

According to the study, although EPA leaves 96.5 percent of the enforcement of federal environmental laws to the states, most states were reimbursed less than 30 percent of what it cost to enforce federal mandates. Some states received less than 15 percent reimbursement.

The report also states the EPA routinely fails to comply with the 1995 Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, which requires it and other agencies to assess the effects new regulations on state and local governments. EPA only provided the legally required assessment for six of 8,733 new regulations implemented from 2000 through 2015. Kovacs says the increasing pace and scope of unfunded mandates imposed on state governments undermines the Constitution's separation of powers. It also drains state budgets, and usurps states' authority and discretion to focus their efforts on solving their most-pressing environmental problems. The study notes that under President Obama, the federal government has imposed 10 times more federal implementation plans on state agencies than the previous three presidents combined.

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Article Tags
Climate Change
Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org