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Pushing Back Against the EPA

Lately, Congress has been taking some significant steps to push back against federal regulatory agencies. Regulations cost our economy $2 trillion a year, and are written and enforced by unelected bureaucrats with no accountability to voters. They undermine property rights, representative government and the rule of law, and its high time someone did something about it.

Yesterday, I wrote about Joni Ernst’s bill to put a moratorium on new regulations between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress, a time when lawmakers are notoriously unaccountable to voters and uninterested in fighting any difficult fights. Today, the House of Representatives voted on a bill authored by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12) to rein in some of the EPA’s emissions standards on coal refuse plants.

Coal refuse plants work by using the discarded remnants of coal production, transforming them into steam energy. From both an environmental standpoint, and based on consumer needs, this is preferable to simply letting coal refuse sit around and take up space. However, the EPA has issued strict emissions standards on coal refuse plants that make them difficult to operate, and in many cases, unprofitable.

Rothfus’ bill, known as the SENSE Act, would loosen emission requirements on these types of plants, would clarify that plants can only be forced to comply with one standard, as opposed to several competing simultaneous standards, and allows alternative means for plants to comply.

Supporters of the bill argue that it will save jobs in the energy sector, and will help the environment by allowing for a productive use of coal refuse, which was previously nothing more than useless waste.

All this may seem like a relatively small advance in the battle against overregulation, but the mere fact that Congress is starting to wake up to the need to take action is encouraging. THe nature of regulations is that agencies rarely put forward sweeping packages that enact major changes all at once. It happens, of course, but far more often, agencies promulgate dozens of small rules that it’s difficult for individuals to really care about. It’s a fiendish strategy designed to neutralize grassroots action and make the messaging war for small government advocates more difficult.

That’s why it’s so important for Congress to remain vigilant, and exercise its constitutional power of the purse to rein in these agencies and protect the American economy from overregulation. THe House passed Rothfus’ bill by a vote of 231-183, and it will now be transmitted to the Senate.