This week Congress unleashed an assault on Obama-era regulations, and Wyoming lawmakers played a big role in the effort and the new effort is angering the environmental community.
Ever heard of the Congressional Review Act? Me neither, that is until Wyoming’s senior Senator Mike Enzi gave me a tutorial on it.
“It’s the ability for Congress to pass a claw back on any regulation that’s pass within 45 days after the time that’s it’s published provided there are enough signatures from the House and the Senate.”
That Congressional Review Act had only been used once in Congress’ history until Senator Enzi employed it to kill a last minute Bill Clinton regulation that dealt with workplace injuries.
“It was very poorly written so we went after it,” said Enzi. “I got to lead the charge on it, and then we changed presidents and the new president was more than willing to sign it. I was able to see how a regulation pushed through at the last minute often has a lot of flaws in it, and that one did.”
Once little known, the Act has become a powerful tool for the Republicans who now run Washington. This week, Republicans in Congress used the act to go after five Obama-era regulations: One scraps a regulation to keep coal ash away from streams and another kills a requirement that oil and gas companies disclose their payments to foreign governments. Enzi said Congress has the final say on rules and regulations.
“We’re the ones that write these laws,” said Enzi. “Supposedly they think that we asked them to do those regulations. There’s usually no indication that we intended that kind of a regulation and consequently we ought to be able to say whether to do it or not.”
Wyoming’s junior senator John Barrasso started the week using the Act to take aim at a Bureau of Land Management rule to reduce methane, known as the venting and flaring rule. He says he’s not done yet.
“President Obama basically was the regulator-in-chief and was on a regulatory rampage to the point of over 3,000 regulations with an impact of over $900 billion to the economy.”
Barrasso and other Republicans are especially taking aim at new environmental protections and one agency in particular.
“The worst offense was by the EPA, over $300 billion in regulations, and the impact that they’ve had on jobs and the economy and take home pay for families. And even as President Obama was a lame duck, after Election Day, he still came out with 198 regulations to a cost of over $100 billion.”
Environmentalists and most Democrats are taken aback by the aggressive posture the GOP is taking. Virginia Democrat Don Beyer said the Republican onslaught against regulations is misguided.
“In many ways, a lot of what government does is try to protect the people from either environmental abuses or abuses that happen in business. These are really good things. No regulation is passed without years of study, many public hearings and often tens of thousands of pieces of input from the American public. So I think it’s silly and unnecessary,” said Beyer.
Congressman Beyer also bemoans the executive order that President Trump signed that scraps two regulations for every new one the government adds, but he also laughs it off.
“This president seems so hostile to regulation, the executive order doesn’t sound like much. I have trouble imagining what regulation he would put forward anyway.”
But Wyoming’s newly minted Congresswoman Liz Cheney says people should get used to it. She adds that the GOP isn’t going to stop unwinding regulations anytime soon.
“The regulatory state has just expanded out of control and the impact and the cost it’s having on the economy,” said Cheney, “its strangling business and strangling economic growth and fossil fuel industry as well, so I think you’re seeing movement on multiple fronts to get that done.”
Democrats and the environmental community are bracing for the battles on multiple fronts as well, but with the party locked out of power in Washington, many are getting ready to tearfully say goodbye to much of President Obama’s environmental legacy.