Regulations bad for business?

Earlier this week, the incoming Attorney General of Kansas, Derek Schmidt, announced that his office would consider litigation against the EPA over rules regulating greenhouse gases. Schmidt says he’s concerned that the rules will force small farmers to make expensive upgrades to their equipment – a claim that simply isn’t true.

Schmidt’s comments reflect a common narrative – that is, regulations, by default, are bad for business.

But not all businesses fear the EPA. On Wednesday, a group of 14 business organizations issued a news release voicing support for stronger environmental regulations. In all, the groups represent more than 60,000 U.S. businesses of varying sizes.

To be fair, at least two of the groups, the American Wind Energy Association and Environmental Entrepreneurs – include companies that stand to gain financially from crackdowns on pollution.

But that’s exactly the point. A dollar spent controlling pollution doesn’t just vanish into thin air. It saves money in other areas – lower health costs, reduced absenteeism, etc., – and may help stimulate other areas of the economy.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson recently said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column that EPA regulations have helped create 1.5 million jobs, and so far have not destroyed the economy – since the agency’s inception in 1970 the U.S. GDP has grown 207%.

It’s an entirely fair and reasonable question to ask whether the benefits of new regulations outweigh the costs. But that doesn’t seem to be the conversation that’s taking place in Kansas.

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