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Congress Is Key to Reining in Regulatory Excess

January 20, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #237

As one of its first official acts of the 115th Congress, on January 5, the U.S. House of Representative passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (H.R. 26), referred to as the REINS Act. The bill requires Congress to approve all new major regulations, meaning any regulation having an impact of $100 million or more on the economy.

The REINS Act is a good start – an antidote to the disease of over-regulation ailing the nation. While some regulations may protect human health or the environment, many – especially in the area of climate, energy, and environmental policy – provide no or minimal measurable benefits while imposing huge costs on people and the economy.

Rules are commonly designed to expand agency budgets, increase the power bureaucrats have over peoples’ lives, and create lifetime employment for agency staff.

Unfortunately, decades ago Congress found it easy to delegate its law-making power to executive agencies. Congress gets credit for passing vague, feel-good laws, leaving to administrative agencies the hard details of writing the rules and enforcing the laws. When agencies go overboard, members of Congress typically complain but do little to change things.

If Congress is required to approve any major regulation, agencies will have an incentive to consider what Congress will actually approve based on what the law says, not just impose what they can get away with. In itself, this change in incentives should rein in the most egregious attempts at illegal, burdensome, unjustified agency action.

Congress already has the power to review and block major regulations through the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996, but it rarely uses that power. CRA allows the House and Senate to pass resolutions of disapproval to block major regulations. Despite tens of thousands of regulations being enacted in the 20 years since CRA became law, Congress used it fewer than half-a-dozen times to block new rules. Only once has a president signed the resolution adopted by Congress. During Barack Obama’s presidency, only two disapproval resolutions were passed by Congress under CRA, and Obama vetoed them both.

Under CRA, unless Congress disapproves of a rule, the regulation becomes law by default. The REINS Act would reverse this, cancelling any major regulation Congress does not explicitly approve.

A recent study by the American Action Forum finds the pace and costs of major regulations have soared under Obama. According to the study, since Obama took office in 2009, the federal government has issued 600 major regulations imposing more than $743 billion on the economy, about one major rule every four or five days. The Obama administration implemented more major regulations in six years than President George W. Bush did during his eight years in office. The major regulations approved by Obama impose the equivalent of $2,294 in regulatory costs on every person in the United States every year. For a household of four, this amounts to nearly $10,000 unavailable for health insurance, medicine or medical bills, college, groceries, a new car, a vacation, or other expenses.

And all these regulatory costs offer little or no benefit, especially with rules flowing from the Environmental Protection Agency, which produce few public health or environmental benefits while imposing high costs. Indeed, some EPA regulations cause more premature deaths than they prevent.

For example, regulations imposed by the Obama administration to fight purported climate change – including the Clean Power Plan, increased fuel efficiency standards, bans on offshore oil production in the North Atlantic and Arctic, and limits on methane emissions from oil and gas production on public lands – increase the cost of energy to consumers and businesses and make the country less energy secure. They will do nothing to prevent purported human-caused global warming. Worse, the regulations are likely to result in thousands of premature deaths as they push more people into poverty.

These and other Obama regulations would never have been enacted had the REINS Act been in place.

President Donald Trump supported the REINS Act in a campaign statement he gave to the public policy group, American Commitment.

“I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed,” said Trump’s statement. “The monstrosity that is the Federal Government with its pages and pages of rules and regulations has been a disaster for the American economy and job growth. The REINS Act is one major step toward getting our government under control.”

The REINS Act still has to get through the Senate, where there is more resistance to accountability and reform. However, with the election of political outsider Donald Trump as president, the public gave a strong signal they are tired of business as usual. Unless Senators want to wind up part of the swamp drained under Trump’s presidency, they must take responsibility for their actions by passing the REINS Act.

-- H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Freedom Works; The Heartland Institute; The Heritage Foundation; and Natural News


IN THIS ISSUE …

Is an IPCC about-face in the offing?Biofuel farming has mixed warming effectsAsia confirms historic warmer times than presentCold, not extreme heat, the real killer


IS AN IPCC ABOUT-FACE IN THE OFFING?

According to a leaked portion of the forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body is likely to finally acknowledge cosmic radiation plays a role in cloud formation, which affects the intake and outflow of sunlight and heat. In addition, an IPCC reviewer has told science writer Matt Ridley that researchers can now estimate, based on observations, how sensitive the temperature is to carbon dioxide, meaning they don’t have to continue relying on flawed computer models. These observations, which take into account a variety of factors affecting temperatures beyond carbon dioxide, indicate a doubling of carbon dioxide will lead to a warming of 1.6° to 1.7°C (2.9° to 3.1°F), much lower than IPCC’s current best estimate, 3°C (5.4°F).

In the light of mounting new evidence that natural factors beyond human greenhouse gas emissions play a larger role in ongoing climate change than previously recognized by IPCC, Ridley asks:

Will the lead authors of the relevant chapter of the forthcoming IPCC scientific report acknowledge that the best observational evidence no longer supports the IPCC’s existing 2°–4.5°C “likely” range for climate sensitivity? Unfortunately, this seems unlikely--given the organization’s record of replacing evidence-based policy-making with policy-based evidence-making, as well as the reluctance of academic scientists to accept that what they have been maintaining for many years is wrong ...

The scientists at the IPCC next year have to choose whether they will admit--contrary to what complex, unverifiable computer models indicate--that the observational evidence now points toward lukewarm temperature change with no net harm. On behalf of all those poor people whose lives are being ruined by high food and energy prices caused by the diversion of corn to biofuel and the subsidizing of renewable energy driven by carboncrats and their crony-capitalist friends, one can only hope the scientists will do so.

SOURCES: Powerlineblog and Watts Up With That


BIOFUEL FARMING HAS MIXED WARMING EFFECTS

In a study published in The Royal Chemistry Society’s journal Energy & Environmental Science, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory produced comprehensive analysis of the overall net climate impact of converting land from other uses to growing biofuels.

While most previous research examined the impact on carbon dioxide emission release and storage when land is converted to grow ethanol and other biofuels, this study also examined the reflectivity effects of converting land. Converting forests, grasslands, wetlands, and open range to croplands changes the reflectivity, or albedo, of these lands. The albedo is the net amount of incoming solar energy reflected back into space. Different types of land have different albedos.

To produce their detailed analysis, the Argonne research team examined “millions of sites in more than a thousand counties in the U.S., covering 70 percent of the nation’s corn production fields.” The researchers discovered, when considering only albedo change effects, that land converted to producing corn for ethanol in general had a net cooling effect on climate, while converting land to grasses grown for biofuels, such as switchgrass and miscanthus, overall warmed the climate. However, when changes in carbon dioxide storage and releases are accounted for, the researchers found altering land to grow corn or switchgrass for ethanol generally leads to warming, while converting lands to growing miscanthus generally results in cooling.

SOURCE: Renewable Energy World


ASIA CONFIRMS RELATIVELY RECENT WARMER TIMES THAN PRESENT

A study published in the Journal of Glaciology by a team of 11 scientists from Japan, Russia, and the United States studying historic temperatures in mid-latitude Asia finds “periods warmer than modern periods occurred ... during the Holocene Climate Optimum and Medieval Warm Period.”

Using high mountain ice core data, the researchers found present temperatures, meaning temperatures from 1993 to 2003, are, on average, 0.5°C lower than air temperatures estimated during the Medieval Warm Period and Holocene Optimum. As the team at CO2 Science write, the Journal of Glaciology study suggests “[t]here is nothing unusual, unnatural or unprecedented about the air temperatures that are currently being observed around the world.”

SOURCE: CO2 Science


COLD, NOT EXTREME HEAT, THE REAL KILLER

A recent article in The New York Times discussed a study published in The Lancet in 2015 which, though it received little attention at the time, produced important findings related to climate and public health. Despite the assertion often made by climate alarmists that global warming will cause more extreme heat waves resulting in more deaths, the study confirms what previous research has shown: Cold weather rather than hot weather is the biggest killer. The paper reports:

[N]on-optimum ambient temperature is responsible for substantial excess in mortality, with important differences between countries. Although most previous research has focused on heat-related effects, most of the attributable deaths were caused by cold temperatures. Despite the attention given to extreme weather events, most of the effect happened on moderately hot and moderately cold days, especially moderately cold days.

How much more deadly was cold than hot weather? A lot. The study examined health data from 384 locations in 13 countries, accounting for more than 74 million deaths. The authors determined cold weather, directly or indirectly, killed 1,700 percent more people than hot weather. As Jane Brody, author of The New York Times article, noted, “[o]ver time, as global temperatures rise, milder winter temperatures are likely to result in fewer cold-related deaths, a benefit that could outweigh a smaller rise in heat-caused mortality.

SOURCES: Watts Up With That; The New York Times; and The Lancet

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

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