REGULATORY ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2011


Gerald "Gerry" E. ConnollyU.S. Representative
[D] Virginia, United States

Length: 5 minutes, 16 seconds


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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

H.R. 3010, seductively titled the Regulatory Accountability Act, would block every single new or pending Federal regulation, including those regulations which Congress has already directed agencies to write. This bill would neuter the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms protecting consumers; it would block tougher food safety oversight responding to last year's salmonella outbreak; and it would gut public health laws, jeopardizing clean air and water and workplace safety. It would effectively repeal 25 separate public health, consumer protection, and environmental laws Congress has already passed. No wonder the Statement of Administration Policy noted that the President would veto the bill if passed.

With this legislation, the House Republican leadership has now attempted to pass more than 170 pieces of legislation, riders and amendments to attack public health and the environment; but H.R. 3010's impacts would not stop here.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Securities and Exchange Commission would not be able to implement consumer protections mandated by law, including commonsense rules like prohibiting investment banks from betting against their own clients on the stock market. The EPA would not be able to complete the toxic air pollution control rule which Congress directed it to implement 21 years ago. Our regulatory system already is so slow that this critical public health standard, which would reduce mercury and arsenic pollution, has been taking since 1990 to develop. Apparently taking two decades to limit mercury pollution is much too fast for the sponsors of this bill.

This bill uses seemingly innocuous requirements to create a tangle of red tape so thick that it would be impossible for any Federal agency, frankly, to issue meaningful regulations ever again.

This bill uses several clever provisions to create regulatory gridlock. The first seems harmless. It requires [Page: H8096] agencies to use the lowest-cost requirement when issuing regulations. It directs agencies to consider alternative regulatory approaches proposed by industry. This model emulates the structure of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which provides a case study for failed environmental legislation. Like this bill, the Toxic Substances Act requires regulations to adhere to the lowest-cost solution. What's wrong with that? For this reason, polluters have been successful in challenging almost every proposed regulation on the premise that there are lower-cost alternatives. For example, asbestos. Despite its well-documented health hazard as a known carcinogen, it's still legal to use asbestos in America unlike in 50 other advanced countries, because asbestos manufacturers challenged the EPA's ban on asbestos and won the case in court when they showed that prohibiting asbestos was not the lowest-cost regulatory option.

The Toxic Substances Act is so ineffective that in its 35 years, a mere five of 22,000 potentially toxic chemicals have actually been regulated under its authority. This bill would require regulatory agencies to analyze every single alternative proposed by industry--a Sisyphean task that would effectively preclude any new regulation from ever again being issued against recalcitrant polluters.

The other clever provision of this bill which also appears innocuous is the requirement that agencies perform a cost-benefit analysis for every regulatory alternative, even spurious ones, proposed by industry. Of course, Congress wants agencies to consider both the cost and benefits of regulations. That's why agencies already do provide full cost-benefit analyses of proposed regulations. Requiring agencies to waste time analyzing every, even spurious, industry alternatives indefinitely delays any additional regulation.

There are only two differences between this bill and the majority's previous attacks on the environment. First, because of its broad scope, this bill would be more destructive; and, second, its clever language conceals how thoroughly it would eviscerate regulatory agencies.

That is why I have introduced this amendment, Mr. Chairman, to exempt public health and safety laws from the purview of this bill. The Republican leadership claims it supports public health and safety. Well, let's give them the opportunity to prove it.

I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment to protect public health and safety. Without this change, this so-called Regulatory Accountability Act guts the important public health, safety, and consumer protection standards we have long counted on in this country; and it would, in fact, not hold industry accountable for any of its future actions.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

[Time: 10:40]

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