Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, in this past Republican weekly address, introduced into the current political lexicon, The Forgotten 15, a reference to 15 pieces of House legislation awaiting perusal in the Senate. Offered as a counter to the President’s criticism of the GOP’s inaction on his Jobs Bill, Schilling and other Republicans throughout the week, touted this legislation as job creation through deregulation.
Discussion pertaining to details of the Forgotten 15 has been surprisingly absent in the news media given the overall job creation debate. To encourage public awareness and dialogue it is necessary to delve into the specifics of these bills. Over half of them involve environmental deregulation while the others deal with mineral resource extraction, oil and gas development, changes to financial reform, and labor relations.
Eight of the fifteen are aimed at clean air and water regulations with 3 geared towards nullifying the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon and greenhouse gas emission rules. These are same rules the EPA was required to create as a result of the 2007 Supreme Court lawsuit, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, in which 3 cities and 13 states and US territories filed against the EPA to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Of particular interest related to the Republican Party’s emphasis on states’ rights – and is evident in a number of the “Forgotten 15” – is the Party’s condemnation of this decision and subsequent EPA rules as government overreach yet the lawsuit stands as an exemplary example of the very state and local government empowerment they champion.
The first of these environmental bills is the oddly monickered H.R. 872 Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act which amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to eliminate some permitting previously required for point-source pesticide discharge into navigable waters. Navigable waters are defined as waters utilized for commercial and transportation purposes which include but are not limited to coastal waterways, harbors and rivers.
H.R. 2018 Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act places significant portions of Clean Water Act regulatory authority into individual states’ hands allowing each to determine which water quality standards to maintain. This will result in downstream water quality issues such as those involving multi-jurisdictional watersheds and coastal waters. For example, assuming the passage of this bill, a river flowing through Western U.S. will pass through multiple states with varied water quality standards. If one upstream state institutes fairly low standards which allow for increased pollutant discharge, those downstream states will be subjected to higher levels of those pollutants than they would otherwise under their stricter standards. This will impact the various uses of the same waterway from recreation to agriculture to drinking water. Minimum, national standards like those currently in place alleviate these problems and provide states with recourse options should they arise.
A third bill, H.R. 2401 Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act institutes measures to assess full, cumulative and incremental economic impacts of all air quality related EPA rules implemented since January 2009. It requires the creation of a new committee comprised of a full range of government agency representatives and discussion with various members of the public. If the economic impacts go beyond predetermined limits the rules will be eliminated.
Mining and Oil and Gas Development
Three pieces of legislation are geared towards increasing offshore oil and gas development. All three bills place requirements on the Secretary of the Interior to expedite the sale of leases. H.R. 1230 Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act specifically targets leases in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore areas of Virginia. H.R. 1229 Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, along with opening more leases, places additional restrictions on civil action by instituting limitations on filing times and prospective relief and includes judicial review limitations. H.R. 1231 Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act passed the House in May 2011, named for the moratorium lifted in October 2010, places further requirements on the Secretary of the Interior to lease out 50% of available outer continental shelf oil and gas acreage for development. This bill appears to imply there has been a permit stoppage of offshore drilling since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill despite the issuing of 39 shallow-water and 6 deep-water permits as of March 2011.
In the area of mineral extraction, H.R. 1904 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act authorizes a federal land exchange of 2,400 acres with the London- and Australia-based Resolution Copper Mining for development of the 3rd largest copper mine in the world. In return the US receives 5,000 acres of parceled land scattered throughout southeastern, central and northern Arizona. Supporters state the project will create upwards of 3,700 jobs but opponents dispute the projections citing Resolution’s high level of automation which they say will, more realistically, create only about 450 jobs.
Endeavoring to curtail aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 1315 Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act will replace the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a commission and requires more congressional oversight for regulations it seeks to institute. This will undoubtedly subject new rules to additional levels of bureaucracy through required commission and congressional hearings. This bill also terminates the Federal Housing Administration’s Mortgage Refinance Program rescinding and permanently canceling all unspent program funds.
The final piece of Forgotten is H.R. 2587 Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act amends the National Labor Relations Act (29 USC 160) – Prevention of Unfair Labor Practices – by restricting the powers of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stating;
“That the Board shall have no power to order an employer (or seek an order against an employer) to restore or reinstate any work, product, production line, or equipment, to rescind any relocation, transfer, subcontracting, outsourcing, or other change regarding the location, entity, or employer who shall be engaged in production or other business operations, or to require any employer to make an initial or additional investment at a particular plant, facility, or location’”
In what can clearly be construed as a reaction to the recent NLRB complaint against Boeing, these fairly broad restrictions of the NLRB’s ability to intervene in employee-employer relations may become applicable to closely related powers of The Board to arbitrate employer-union disputes or to reconcile cases of discrimination against employees seeking labor organization. In line with emerging trends of restricting public employee rights in Wisconsin and Ohio, this legislation may lead to curtailing private sector employee rights in the near future.
While regulations do create a fair amount of consternation among employers of particular industries and a streamlining of many regulatory processes may well be necessary to increase efficiency, the notion that clean air and water standards, increased consumer financial protections and responsible oil and gas development represent significant barriers to job creation is highly questionable. Support for this claim of regulations as “job killers” is further eroded according to a recent survey by National Federation of Independent Business in which less than 20% of small business owners cite government regulation as an important problem. The largest concern expressed in this survey and in agreement with many economists is low consumer demand, an area this effort at deregulation simply does not acknowledge much less address. The time has long since arrived for Congress to implement proven economic recovery strategies of government investment in much needed infrastructure development, emerging private sector technologies and continued stimulus until such time the economy strengthens to a point the baton can be handed back to the private sector.
Further information and full texts of the Forgotten 15 and other related bills sent to the Senate can be accessed at GovTrac.us.
1) H.R. 872: Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011
2) H.R. 910: Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011
3) H. J. Res. 37: Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission (Disapproval of Net Neutrality)
4) H.R. 2018: Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011
5) H.R. 1315: Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011
6) H.R. 2587: Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act
7) H.R. 2401: Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011
8 ) H.R. 2681: Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011
9) H.R. 2250: EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011
10) H.R. 2273: Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act
11) H.R. 1904: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011
12) H.R. 2433: Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011
13) H.R. 1230: Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act
14) H.R. 1229: Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act
15) H.R. 1231: Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act
16) H.R. 2021: Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011
17) H.R. 1938: North American-Made Energy Security Act