TRAIN supporters on the wrong track

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Right now, the country has a jobs problem. Unemployment is still dangerously high, the economy is stuck in neutral and small businesses have been unable to play their traditional role as job generators because they lack customers and access to capital. But instead of trying to find ways to help their fellow Americans find work, some lawmakers are focused on preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job. Despite research showing otherwise, they claim the EPA is bad for business.

This is not where small business owners need lawmakers to concentrate their efforts.

Their latest attempt to derail the EPA, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act, or TRAIN Act, would create an executive branch committee to study the impacts of EPA regulations. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote this week on the act, which would require agencies such as the Department of Commerce and others to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on EPA regulations used to limit pollution. But the TRAIN Act would require they focus solely on the cost component of the EPA’s rules, and ignore the benefits they provide. Leaving out the benefits in a cost-benefit analysis is sure to skew the results. Everything has a cost. To determine which regulations are constructive and which aren’t, lawmakers must determine if the benefits outweigh the costs. Clearly, a balanced picture is not the goal of this act.

Our research shows small business owners actually support the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act. National opinion research we released Sept. 20 found 76 percent of small business owners favor the EPA regulating carbon emissions through the Clean Air Act, and 58 percent said they believe the EPA’s regulation of carbon emissions will impact their business in a positive way.

Additionally, the economic benefits of the Clean Air Act are estimated at more than 4 to 8 times the costs of compliance, according to the Office of Management and Budget. This is an important detail that those calling for passage of the TRAIN Act completely disregard.

There is a legitimate role for government in passing laws that address private sector business activity and solve business and economic problems. The Clean Air Act does this, and we know small business owners favor policies that help improve the economy and their ability to do business. Our national opinion poll also found that 87 percent of small business owners believe stimulating innovation and improving energy efficiency are good ways to increase prosperity for small businesses.

If only some in Congress were as pragmatic and bottom-line oriented as business owners. Of course the private sector should be carefully considered as Congress reviews each bill, but not all regulations are bad. Despite rhetoric claiming otherwise, regulations aren’t anywhere near the top of most small business owners’ concerns. In our poll, only 13 percent of small business owners said regulation is their biggest problem. Conversely, 46 percent cited economic uncertainty as their biggest concern and 43 percent said it was the rising cost of doing business.

Trying to pass a bill that could kill any regulations that affect small businesses could remove an important tool that can stimulate small business innovation and contain energy costs.

Lawmakers should stop wasting their time trying to tear down something that works, and instead focus on ways to help the country’s primary job creators get back on track.

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