Don't be fooled: New bill would hamstring creation of environmental protections

Mason Cummings/TWS

With the fight over repealing individual environmental and public health regulations dying down, the Senate has moved on to a much larger and dangerous goal: making it more difficult to implement protections in the future.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, last seen voting to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Rule, introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act. Sounds innocent, but don’t be fooled! As commonsense as it sounds, it’s another hand out to industry. This bill would hamstring our ability to protect the public from all kinds of dangers going forward, putting industry and development above all else.

The bill claims that for any future regulations to move forward, the agency in charge has to be transparent about all science that could be used to develop the regulation. That all sounds well and good, but there is a reason that the scientific community is alarmed.

As Yogin Kothari at the Union of Concerned Scientists writes:

“Hypothetically, if an industry or any individual produces their own study or even an opinion without scientific validity that conflicts with the accepted science on the dangers of a certain chemical or product…federal agencies charged with protecting the public using best available science would be forced to slow down an already exhaustive process.”

Also, it mandates an ambiguous “cost benefit analysis” before implementing safeguards, but there is no definition of what “cost-benefit analysis” in the bill means. As a result, regulations could be discarded or against the law because of their cost, even as their intangible benefits, like clean air and water, are not properly quantified.

What is really happening here is no secret and we have seen it time and again during this Congress and the Trump administration. The special interests in Washington, including the oil, gas and coal lobbies, do not like regulations. So Congress thinks that if they can put up enough obstacles and barriers, then regulations won’t happen. But protections and guidelines are crucial to our health and well-being and with science ever progressing, these protections will continue to be updated.

Don’t let Senators and congressmen pull the wool over our eyes. Regulations and science are crucially important. This bill, and others like it, are solutions in search of a problem. Cleaning up our air, water and land is not a problem. Attempts by Congress to gut safeguards on behalf of special interests is the real problem we are facing.