For the past eight years, President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress have feverishly worked to centralize energy regulatory power in Washington, empowering federal bureaucrats to micromanage how energy producers operate their facilities and run their businesses.
The fundamental problem with centralized regulatory authority is the tendency of Washington bureaucrats to be ignorant of—and often indifferent to—the interests of the people who live in the communities that are affected by their rules.
This isn’t a knock on the men and women who work in the federal bureaucracy, most of whom are well-educated and well-intentioned. But there’s no doubt that a regulator in Washington, D.C., knows less about a coal mine in Sevier County, Utah, than a regulator in Salt Lake City.
But starting in January 2017, we can begin to move all that decision-making power closer to the people.
The incoming Congress and new administration give us the best opportunity in recent memory to put Washington—especially federal energy policy—back on the side of hardworking Americans.
This will require a dual-track approach that simultaneously reins in our hyperactive federal bureaucracy and takes positive steps to return regulatory authority to the states.
We can—and should—start the process of repealing the most harmful and costly federal regulations right away. For President-elect Donald Trump, this means undoing many of his predecessor’s executive orders, like the moratorium on coal leasing.
And on Capitol Hill, we can get to work immediately after the new Congress is sworn in, by using the Congressional Review Act to rescind the laundry list of regulations the Obama administration issued in the past several months.
Much of this can be accomplished in the first 100 days of the new administration. But we must also advance long-term, structural solutions that decentralize regulatory authority out of the federal bureaucracy.
This should begin with a much-needed and fundamental attitude adjustment within administrative agencies (which is one reason I’m extremely encouraged by the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency), so that Washington’s regulators remember that their job is to work with—not condescend to—the states.
Finally, Congress should work to pass, and get signed into law, legislation that empowers states to resume their rightful role in regulating the energy producers within their borders.
For federal lands states, like Utah, I believe the only fair and sustainable solution is a full transfer of all noncontroversial federal land back to the state governments.
But this is a long-term goal, and in the meantime, we can develop solutions that encourage co-management of public lands and that prevent federal rules from pre-empting or overriding effective regulations implemented by state agencies.
Advancing public policies that support and strengthen the revival of energy production in our country is important for all Americans, but especially for our fellow citizens involved in producing, refining, and transporting our nation’s energy resources—jobs like construction workers, rig and drill operators, and miners—where upwards of 90 percent of workers don’t have, or need, a college degree.
If we want our economy to produce the jobs and wage growth it has in the past, the energy sector is perhaps the best area for the incoming administration to start.