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Steven Milloy: Environmental Overregulation Is Costing Us

By Erika Winston

October 5, 2017

Steve Milloy

The true cost of environmental regulation lies in the overburdening effects of overregulation. This according to Steven Milloy, attorney, policy analyst, and author who has spent more than 25 years championing an environmental agenda based on conservative principles.

“It's good to have general rules of the road,” says Milloy. “But today's regulations were written in the 1970s. The environment has been cleaned up a lot since then and we have learned a lot, yet we are still trying to regulate by 1970s standards, which has led to overregulating.”

Milloy sees most actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as gross abuses of regulatory authority that have only resulted in small, insignificant improvements to environmental health. He supports a strategy that would do away with existing EPA rules and create new, less restrictive options. “I'm not crapping on the general notion of regulations, but the problem is overregulation,” he says. “All environmental laws and regulations should be sunset, and we should have new ones based on what we've learned.”

Milloy is the author of several books, including Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA (2016) and Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams (2001). He also served on the Trump administration’s EPA transition team.

According to Milloy, businesses and consumers ultimately feel the effects of overregulation, though the numbers are difficult to quantify. “These costs are different for every business. I worked in the coal industry for many years and the Obama [environmental regulatory] wars on the coal industry were devastating,” he says.

Milloy says he saw local economies within these coal mining towns destroyed due to the widespread consequences of overregulation and the resulting loss of employment that affected numerous coal miners. “Small businesses that supported the coal industry and supported coal workers were devastated by these policies.”

In the broader marketplace, says Milloy, environmental regulations hamper economic growth, affecting businesses and consumers. “Businesses take longer to produce their products and some of the costs are passed on to consumers,” he says. Milloy explains that these regulations cause the products to become too expensive, which prevents potential customers from buying them. “These are needless costs, and it's time to rethink all of this stuff.”

In response to the potential costs of environmental deregulation and the perceived goals of the conservative environmental agenda, Milloy offers strong words. “First off, it's insane and insulting,” he declares. “We all live in the same country. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, and have the same environmental standards. No one is talking about rolling back environmental protections. What Republicans are talking about is rolling back pointless, expensive overregulation.”

Milloy also does not buy into recent assertions regarding the impact of President Trump’s policies on the environmental aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. “The Obama hurricane preparedness rules would have had no impact on Harvey and its unprecedented and unexpected levels of flooding from an unexpected type of storm. In any event and outside of the flooding, there was no special environmental disaster caused by Harvey. There are no toxic exposures resulting from Harvey that seem to have occurred,” Milloy says. “One of the things that we learned since 1970s is that incidental environmental exposure to chemicals does not cause harm to human health. If you are going to sweat exposure to chemicals/toxics in the flood waters, I would be more worried about the various releases from people's homes/garages caused by the flooding, not Superfund sites. Then there are the snakes . . . .”

Milloy is cautiously optimistic about the direction of the Trump administration’s environmental policy. “I am hoping it changes, but it took 47 years to get us into this mess. It’s going to take more than four years to get us out of it. However, this is the first administration since the EPA has been around to not issue new regulations. That's an accomplishment in and of itself. They are trying to take the EPA’s boot off of the neck of the economy.”

According to Milloy, this new agenda needs some help from the courts to implement institutional changes. He says that one of the most concerning issues, from a judicial standpoint, is the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chevron USA, Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. In this landmark case, the justices created a legal standard that grants deference to government agencies when the interpretation of regulations that they administer is in question.

“As long as you have benevolent agencies that are truly trying to assist the people, that’s reasonable. But when you have an EPA that is purposely trying to target specific industries, that’s a problem,” says Milloy.

Eric Bilsky of Oceana offers his counterpoint