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Costly EPA Regulations Bring Little Benefit


Guest Columnist

The Senate has confirmed Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since joining the Trump administration early last year, Wheeler has eagerly pared back environmental regulations. He’s sure to continue these rollbacks now that he’s the EPA’s official head.

Radical environmentalists were dismayed by his confirmation. But everyday Americans should be thrilled. Wheeler is merely targeting unnecessary rules that raise the cost of living for middle-class families. By cutting pointless red tape, Wheeler and other Trump administration officials can grow the economy and create jobs while simultaneously protecting the environment.

Under the Obama administration, overzealous regulators buried energy companies under a mountain of new rules and restrictions. In 2015 alone, new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency created over $11 billion in regulatory costs for businesses.

If left unchecked, those rules would have dampened economic growth, causing the government to lose out on $33 billion in tax revenue by 2025. The ensuing drop in energy production would have caused fuel and electricity prices to rise, costing the average family an additional $255 each year. Regulatory overreach would have also destroyed an estimated 830,000 jobs by 2035.

Excessive regulations also jeopardize national security. The Obama administration’s rules could have reduced U.S. oil production by 3 million barrels a day by 2035 – about a quarter of current U.S. production. The United States would have had to import that fuel from hostile nations like Venezuela.

By trimming needless regulations, Wheeler and his colleagues at the EPA can empower businesses to realize their full potential. Oil and gas production already adds $1.3 trillion to the American economy each year. By one estimate, a light-touch regulatory approach could enlarge the economy by $1.9 trillion 2035.

Somewhat counterintuitively, this light-touch approach actually helps the environment by spurring higher natural gas production. Many power plants have recently switched from burning coal to burning natural gas. Since natural gas produces only half as much carbon as coal, this transition has done wonders for the environment. Over the last decade, as U.S. natural-gas production has skyrocketed, U.S. carbon emissions have plummeted by nearly one-quarter.

Energy companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell, and British Petroleum are also proactively fighting climate change. These firms have pledged to upgrade their equipment and drilling techniques to decrease emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas.

In short, individual companies and the invisible hand of the market are already helping slash emissions. There’s simply no need for red tape from Washington.

The dangers of excessive energy-sector regulations are no secret to most Americans. Seven out of ten voters in the 2016 elections opposed any taxes or laws that would harm domestic energy development.

A light-touch approach to regulations will promote energy production, thereby creating jobs, bolstering the economy, and combatting climate change. Americans should cheer Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation as EPA administrator.


Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of this paper or its corporate ownership.