A two-for-one deal on regulations issued by President Donald Trump’s Executive Order last week requires federal agencies to eliminate at least two existing regulations for every new one implemented.
This was one of the central themes discussed in a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that focused on reducing regulatory burdens. There was disagreement from the outset, with Ranking Member Bill Nelson (FL) calling the policy “mindless” due to its narrow focus and stressing the importance of safety regulations in the oil and gas sector following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Ms. Lisa Heinzerling (Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center) argued that the policy makes a mistake in solely considering the financial cost of the rule (calculated using what she referred to as inflated and flawed statistics) while discounting environmental and safety benefits. Chairman John Thune (SD) stated that while regulations can provide important environmental protections, regulatory overhaul is necessary. Witnesses from the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and the Hoover Institution praised efforts by the new administration to reduce costly regulations, many of which were put in place during former President Barack Obama’s tenure.
Much of the discussion centered on environmental regulations related to the oil and gas sector. Senator Dan Sullivan (AK) insisted that development of the Arctic is inevitable. He argued for repealing regulations limiting offshore drilling in Alaskan waters, stating that it would be more harmful to the environment to leave development to countries with lower standards than ours. Senator Ted Cruz (TX) called bans on offshore drilling an “abuse of power” and questioned the panel on their hopes for the future of energy under President Trump. Mr. Jack Gerard (President and CEO, API) agreed, referring to the “huge potential” of offshore resources.
The two-for-one policy isn’t the only action taken in recent weeks to begin repealing regulations. Last week, Congress began a Congressional Review Act (CRA, Public Law 104-121) process to overturn the Stream Protection Rule (protects waterways from coal dust and other mining residue) and rules regulating onshore oil and gas waste flaring. The CRA is a seldom-used law allowing members of Congress to repeal regulations passed within 60 legislative days of the last presidency with only a simple majority. Mr. Gerard stated his support for these actions and also thanked the committee for the passage of the Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge (VIDA) Act (S. 168) last week.
The hearing didn’t stick with just talking about regulations. When questioned whether the Executive Order on immigration was “good for business,” Gary Shapiro (President and CEO, CTA) disagreed, saying it prevents our country from attracting the “best and brightest” talent and has far-reaching implications, including pushing potential international meetings elsewhere. Discussions on regulations are likely to be frequent under the Trump Administration. Chairman Thune stated his hope for this committee going forward, “There’s plenty of room for bipartisan reforms that significantly cut costs and burdens, without compromising safety, health and environmental goals.”