- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In a preview of a battle likely to be waged throughout the fall, President Obama told GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner in a letter Tuesday that the administration is considering seven regulations that would each cost the U.S. economy more than $1 billion per year.

All told, the seven proposed rules on the environment and transportation cited by Mr. Obama would cost U.S. companies at least $38 billion per year and could cost as much as $100 billion annually in compliance costs. House Republicans have made clear they intend to make what they consider federal over-regulation and red tape a top legislative priority when they return from their summer break next week.

“Before finalizing any of them, we will take account of public comments and concerns and give careful consideration to cost-saving possibilities and alternatives,” Mr. Obama wrote to the Ohio Republican.

Mr. Boehner wrote to the president Friday, asking for an accounting of proposed rules that would cost more than $1 billion annually. “The economy cannot withstand the barrage of major new federal regulations planned by the administration,” the Ohio Republican said.

The president listed four proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules and three in the Department of Transportation as having the high potential cost. An EPA regulation on air-quality standards could by itself cost between $19 billion and $90 billion per year for businesses to meet.

The administration has been sparring with industry and congressional Republicans over cutting government regulations for most of Mr. Obama’s presidency. In his letter, Mr. Obama argued that his administration has already cut federal rules that will save more than $10 billion in the next five years.

The president also said the cost of “final, economically significant rules” were higher in the final two years of the administration of Republican George W. Bush than in the first two years of Mr. Obama’s administration. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has questioned the administration’s tally.

Mr. Boehner said the administration’s regulatory agenda includes at least 219 proposed rules that each come with a projected economic impact of at least $100 million, which he said runs counter to the president’s stated desire to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses.

The Chamber of Commerce, which has long fought to ease the regulatory burden on business, sponsored a nationwide tour this summer by former Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, and former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. to call for “common-sense” regulatory reform.

Bill Kovacs, the Chamber’s vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, has called the administration’s claims of fewer regulations “disingenuous.”

Mr. Kovacs noted that the Government Accountability Office said there were 178 major rules reported to Congress in the final two years of the Bush administration, compared with 195 such rules in the first two years of the Obama presidency.

And a study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank, found 339 “economically significant” rules, defined as costing $100 million or more, in the last two years under Mr. Bush, but 408 such rules in the first two years of the Obama administration.

Industry has criticized new rules implementing overhauls of the nation’s health care and financial systems, and businesses also have argued that the Obama administration’s plan to lower the nation’s ozone standards will weaken the economy.

Mr. Kovacs said that while the administration has made some progress, real regulatory reform requires faster rulings and “transparency in the permitting process so we know exactly which permits are being held up and why.”