|President Obama’s recently announced climate-change agenda calls for stiff new limits on carbon emissions at coal-fired plants. That will hit Pennsylvania hard.A 2012 study by the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance found that 14,500 Pennsylvania jobs depend on coal, which contributes $7.5 billion to our state economy. Coal has actually reduced emissions 70 percent since the 1970s, and the cost of new regulations could devastate an already struggling industry.
The climate-change proposal will also affect our state’s small farms, restaurants, manufacturers, and even commercial offices, which will be deemed “stationary sources” of pollution. That means they will be required to complete costly and time-consuming permit applications.
With his climate-change agenda, our president has chosen to circumvent Congress and instead rule by regulatory fiat. There’s no doubt a climate-change bill would have faced political and scientific challenges on Capitol Hill. Using regulations to avoid the checks and balances of our bicameral system is of great concern. There has already been a 60 percent increase in proposed regulations in three years.
Under the Obama administration, a tidal wave of more than 4,000 proposed federal regulations are awaiting approval. These proposals affect every sector of our economy. If enacted, they will wreak havoc on business, cost millions of dollars, and result in the loss of thousands of jobs. Small businesses take a much bigger hit when it comes to the cost of complying with new regulations. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses pay three times more than larger firms. That amounts to about $10,000 per worker per year. A recent Gallup poll put regulations at the top of small-business concerns.
Small-business owners speak of new rules that create hours of paperwork but leave them wondering what purpose is served, especially when it’s not clear the public or their employees have been protected from harm.
In Somerset County, a concrete company owner says worker safety rules are “one size fits all,” even though in his particular industry there is no evidence of injuries. As a result, he spends dozens of hours filling out additional paperwork instead of growing his business. A Pittsburgh small-business owner who provides retirement benefits for his employees used to file reports on that once a year when he made the single annual contribution. Now a new federal regulation requires him to spend thousands of dollars and many more hours doing those forms four times a year, even though the information doesn’t change.
Rules requiring input from small businesses on proposed federal regulations are frequently ignored. The process is neither transparent nor balanced, and it must be changed. The White House has made a commitment to review the impact of current and proposed regulations on small businesses. It’s important that the federal government follow through. Otherwise, Pennsylvania and other states will see more people losing jobs, and consumer prices will continue to rise.
Guest columnist Kevin Shivers is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, based in Harrisburg.