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Regulatory reform creates transparency, regardless of administration

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Nick Rahall Nick Rahall

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., represents West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District.

Government regulation should be effective, transparent and accountable; too often, that is not the case. 

Look at the EPA. In advancing its regulatory agenda, the agency has repeatedly circumvented the public comment and participation requirements of the law, and sought to establish its own timetables and requirements beyond anything sanctioned by Congress. 

As a result, the agency, whose leaders are not elected nor directly accountable to the people, has been repeatedly rebuked by the Congress and the Courts. 

Look also at the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. This agency was created in the wake of the Wall Street financial crisis to consolidate and strengthen consumer protections when it comes to mortgages and credit cards and other financial products. In trying to create an independent agency, however, proponents removed significant checks on its regulatory agenda, giving this new agency broad authority, with far too little guidance from the Congress, to write regulations that could have a direct impact on the finances of every customer of a bank and credit union.

When done correctly, regulations protect the public's health and safety and promote its well-being.  But, there must also be balance to guard against overly burdensome regulations that hurt the economy and unfairly penalize the individuals and businesses that federal rules are intended to benefit.  

Regulatory actions must derive from the law and there must be consistency in our regulations so that businesses can plan and hire and invest.

Also, the regulatory process must be open and accessible to the people so that rules have integrity and legitimacy.

None of this is possible — and our Constitutional system cannot properly function — if every new administration is allowed to operate outside the law, no matter how lofty and morally superior they claim their intentions to be.

That's why I have voted in favor of a series of regulatory reform bills, known collectively as the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act, which would require agencies to consider the full costs and benefits of their rules, including their indirect costs and cumulative impact over time.

These measures would expand the opportunity for public comment, which includes allowing the public to grill agency officials regarding the cost and justification of a proposed rule, and empowering individuals and small businesses to intervene in the regulatory process, and to challenge rules in court.

The bills I supported would require stringent cost-benefit analyses — requiring agencies to consider less costly alternatives to regulation and to maximize benefits and minimize costs, with the aim of ensuring sensible and understandable regulations. Again, the less burdensome, the better.

By the way, these bills were endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, as well as the National Mining Association and Association of Builders and Contractors.

And these measures are largely similar to legislation I supported in the last Congress, known as the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act, another key bill endorsed by the U.S. and West Virginia Chambers of Commerce. 

I continue to use my seniority and the strong bipartisan relationships I have built over many years to push back against federal actions that hurt our state, such as the EPA's war on coal, a war I have unwaveringly soldiered against.

I am the author of H.R. 1486, the No Carbon Tax Bill, which would prevent this Administration from imposing a tax on fossil fuels, including coal.  

Most recently, I voted in favor of the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, a measure I introduced with my Republican colleague from Kentucky, Ed Whitfield, which would prohibit the EPA from moving forward with its greenhouse gas emission rules that would prove so harmful to affordable coal-fired power generation in our country.

This measure continues my work from the last Congress, when I helped to write and support the Stop the War on Coal Act, yet another key priority of the U.S. and West Virginia Chambers of Commerce.

Any administration that unilaterally suspends enforcement of and effectively rewrites the law to its own liking — as this Administration has — is setting dangerous precedents for future Administrations, whether Democratic or Republican.  It is a big problem, and something I have spoken out against and opposed.

Democrats and Republicans must ensure that every administration, no matter which party is in control, follows the Constitution and stays within the bounds of its powers.

For our governmental system to work, the public has to have input into their laws and that best occurs through the legislative process, where there is a full and transparent debate. Any President acting alone, with his decision-making process known only to him and his closest advisors, simply does not cut it.