As Lawmakers Aim to Unwind Environmental Regulations, What Could That Mean for Virginia?

Mar 3, 2017


Scott Pruit, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is on board with a plan to roll back regulations that critics say have hurt industry.
Credit Cliff Owen / AP

Virginia Democrats are raising concerns that the GOP effort to unwind regulations could have consequences for Virginia's environment. Matt Laslo has the story from the Capitol.




President Trump has said he hopes to cut regulations by as much as 75-percent, and he has an ally in Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte. As chair of the Judiciary Committee Goodlatte is promising to go through the federal registry and target what he calls burdensome regulations.


“These burdens on U.S. businesses subsidize our foreign competitors. It’s long past time to untie these binds and unleash American ingenuity," Goodlatte says. "As House Judiciary Committee Chairman, I will seek to restore accountability for and provide relief from excessive regulation for our nation’s small businesses and job creators.”


Goodlatte says the push to deregulate is a natural reaction to the Obama administrations push to regulate.


“Unfortunately over the last 8 years, the Obama administration doubled down on its determination to create a regulatory state by adding tens of thousands of regulations including many within the last months of his presidency that could have far reaching effects for years to come,” he says


But Democrats fear the deregulation push will harm public safety. Northern Virginia Democrat Don Beyer says Republicans are making much ado about nothing.


“No regulations passed without years of study and many public hearings and often tens of thousands of pieces of input from the American people so I think it’s silly and unnecessary."


Beyer says east coast states like Virginia are the tailpipes for states to our west, which he says is why federal regulations are needed.


“Well we don’t generate that much smoke sac pollution but if it was all coming from the states to the west of us, it blows right across us. And the same with the water, he says."


Beyer also points to the efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, which he says shows why federal regulations are essential.   


“But a lot of it was what was happening in Pennsylvania or upstream in the Chesapeake Bay water shed. If you can’t manage that on a larger area, nationally, we’ll be in big trouble.”


And Northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly worries the GOP rhetoric outpaces reality.


“It’s one thing to just make the ideological argument that all regulation is bad and all of it is job killing and all of it hurts the economy," Connolly says. "The facts of course of the last half century prove otherwise.”


Republican Congressman Rob Wittman, though, says the problem is that under the Obama administration bureaucrats didn’t take into account how costly new regulations were. 


 “So I think this is a balance," Wittman says. "It’s looking at, as you go forward, the two for one rule, so if you’re going to put one forward, you have to look at the dollar amount of that and you have to rescind at least two other regulations of an equal dollar amount so, that’s a way to really in net be able to draw things back and it makes agencies too look at priorities and determine ‘are these regulations really needed?’”


Democrats are especially worried that Scott Pruitt is the new head of the EPA, because he repeatedly sued the agency while he was Attorney General of Oklahoma.