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Public Statements

All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act of 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONYERS. Madam Chair, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 2804, the ``Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency Act of 2014,'' also known as the so-called ALERRT Act.

I oppose this bill for numerous reasons, the most of important of which is that it would jeopardize critical public health and safety regulatory protections.

For example, the bill requires agencies to consider potential costs and benefits associated with proposed and final rules ``[N]withstanding any other provision of law.''

This ``supermandate'' would effectively trump all other statutes--such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act--that prohibit or limit the use of cost information in setting health and safety standards.

In addition, title II of the bill would require agencies and federal courts to consider whether a rule has ``significant adverse effects on ..... the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.'' The practical effect of this definition is that it will require agencies and the courts to consider the business and regulatory environments of other nations.

Consider, for example, a proposed rule that imposes heightened clean air requirements on American steel manufacturers.

H.R. 2804 would necessarily require consideration of whether this regulation--which could potentially result in higher compliance costs--could make American steel products less competitive in a country, such as China, that has a much less stringent regulatory regime.

While the economic analysis under this requirement may be deceptively simple, its dangerous ramifications for public health cannot be underestimated. Chinese officials have only recently begun to acknowledge the health hazard risks presented by extensive air pollution that affects its cities, including its capital.

The end result is that the public health of Americans and the safety of the environment will be compromised so that American manufacturers can better compete with their foreign counterparts.

This is a shortsighted regulatory ``race to the bottom'' that prioritizes profits over saving lives.

Another fundamental flaw with H.R. 2804 is that it will greatly lengthen--not shorten--the already time-consuming process by which federal rules are promulgated.

Avoiding undue delay in rulemaking is important because strong regulation is vital to protecting Americans in nearly every aspect of their lives.

On average, it already takes between 4 to 8 years for an agency to promulgate a new rule.

But, instead of streamlining the rulemaking process, the bill extensively adds numerous procedural hurdles to this process.

Title II of the bill, for example, adds more than 60 additional procedural steps to the rulemaking process.

Not only that, title II re-institutes a long-discredited rulemaking process that requires ``trial-type'' procedures. Known as formal rulemaking, this time-consuming process was widely-rejected decades ago as being highly ineffective.

Recently proposed regulations that could be impacted by this and other provisions in the bill include rules: implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act's standards to reduce food contaminants like salmonella and that would help prevent 1.75 million illnesses; ``strengthening chemical facility accident prevention standards in response to the 2013 fertilizer explosion in West, Texas that resulted in the deaths of 12 volunteer firefighters and 2 other individuals; preventing the manufacture and distribution of tainted and counterfeit prescription drugs; implementing the Justice Department's National Standards to prevent, detect, and respond to prison rape; adjusting the reimbursement rates to Medicare providers for end-stage renal diseases; setting payments to primary care physicians under the Vaccines for Children Program; establishing meal requirements for the National School Lunch Program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010; implementing Labor Department Standards for H-2B Aliens in the United States; establishing the subsistence allowance for veterans under the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program; and setting the Patent and Trademark Office's fees for patents.

And, this is just a small sample of the many kinds of protections that this bill would jeopardize. I could go on and on.

This also explains why more than 150 consumer groups, environmental organizations, labor unions, and other entities, strenuously oppose this bill. These organizations include: The AFL-CIO, The Alliance for Justice; The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; The American Lung Association; The Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; The International Brotherhood of Teamsters; The UAW; The League of Conservation Voters; The National Women's Law Center; The Natural Resources Defense Council; People for the American Way; Public Citizen; the Sierra Club; Service Employees International Union; the Union of Concerned Scientists; and the United Steelworkers; just to name a few.

Likewise, the Administration issued a strongly worded veto threat against this bill. It warns that the bill ``would impose unneeded and costly analytical and procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from performing their statutory duties.''

Finally, H.R. 2804 will give well-funded, anti- regulatory interests even more opportunities to derail rulemaking.

Agencies often spend many months, if not years, to perfect theses rules based on feedback from these sources and their own expertise.

Under the bill, however, well-funded regulated industries could exert even more influence over federal rulemaking than they already do.

For instance, the bill's less deferential standard of judicial review gives additional opportunities for anti-regulatory interests to engage in dilatory tactics that can substantially slow down an already slow rulemaking process.

As Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing consumer interests, warns: ``This new and inappropriate role for the courts is a recipe for more activist judges, increased litigation, endless delays, and more rather than less uncertainty for regulated parties and the public.''

Similarly, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has expressed concerns about the provision's potential to make the rulemaking process more lengthy and costly.

The American people deserve better.

Accordingly, I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this seriously flawed bill.


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