Lisa Jackson will retire from her position as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this month as the most prolific regulator of her class of Obama administrators. This is not a distinction to be coveted.
Under Jackson’s leadership, the EPA has issued 1,824 regulations. For context, the Department of Energy whipped up 83 regulations in the same period, and the Department of Labor issued 51 regulations.
Of the hundreds of EPA regulations under Jackson, 20 are considered “major regulations,” meaning the expected cost of compliance breaks $100 million. Using the EPA’s conservative estimates, these 20 rules will cost more than $7 billion in one-time initial compliance and $44.86 billion in annual direct compliance costs, according to Heritage research fellow Diane Katz.
However, the overall drain these regulations will have on the economy is not calculable, because companies respond by redirecting resources to meet government compliance rather than company growth, job creation, and innovation.
Some regulation is justifiable. But Jackson’s EPA has epitomized the Obama Administration’s propensity to micromanage Americans’ basic lifestyle decisions. One lowlight of her term was the endangerment finding, which determined through shoddy science that CO2 is a pollutant and therefore needs to be regulated. This subjected activities such as driving cars and producing electricity to costly EPA rules.
As a result, new fuel-efficiency standards mandated in October 2012 will add hundreds of dollars onto the sticker price of vehicles. New coal-fired power plants, which provide the largest portion of America’s electricity, are now nearly impossible to build. Never mind that Congress rejected a similar objective when it voted down cap and trade.
The best environmental policy emanates from liberty, recognizing that Americans are interested and invested in a clean and safe environment, and that individuals, communities, and states are best equipped to address conflicts between environmental and economic health when they arise. The EPA needs a model of stewardship in the context of a free people and free markets, not the command-and-control regulation by which Jackson led the agency.
The EPA sees itself as the champion of the poor and the voiceless worker. But too often its regulations make victims of the poor and the worker—after all, it is not Washington elitists whose luxury lifestyles are impacted by higher electricity bills and more expensive cars. The ones carrying the real burden are the working, single mother whose car just broke down or the middle-class family who has less to put away for college because they have to meet increasing heating bills.
But hey, at least their cars will emit less harmless, odorless CO2.