EPA cuts won't boost business

It's a familiar refrain when talk turns to the Environmental Protection Agency: Slash the bureaucracy, free business from onerous government regulations, and everything will be great. The problem is, indiscriminate budget cutting often has unintended consequences, and the results may not please everyone, even business.

The Trump administration proposes to cut the EPA budget by 31 percent, eliminating a quarter of the agency's 15,000 jobs.

But that's great, you say. Why do we need that many people in an agency that stifles business with overzealous regulations?

The problem with eliminating the people whose job it is to administer environmental laws is that the laws are still in force and still must be followed. And many of those employees help businesses affected by those laws by issuing permits and monitoring compliance.

Another consequence of deep cuts to the EPA is that state agencies responsible for enforcing Clean Air Act rules, for instance, rely on federal funding to do it. "Shifting responsibility to the states," as the administration says it wants to do, while cutting the funding that allows the states to perform that role, means the work won't get done.

In some cases, the EPA runs programs that benefit businesses directly by helping them reduce emissions and use power more efficiently. Some of those programs are slated for elimination under the proposed cuts.

Anyone who has purchased a major appliance has seen the Energy Star sticker that tells the consumer how efficiently that refrigerator or clothes dryer operates. Guess who tests those appliances and determines their Energy Star rating?

The EPA.

The 25-year-old program costs virtually nothing as government programs go — just $60 million a year. And 16,000 businesses participate in it, competing for high Energy Star ratings that give them a  competitive edge in selling their products and services to consumers.

The EPA says the program has saved American consumers and businesses $30 billion a year on their energy bills.

But Energy Star is one of the programs slated for elimination under the president's budget proposal.

So is the SmartWay program, which works with companies to make their operations more efficient, by helping trucking companies equip their vehicles with low-resistance tires and aerodynamic flaps to improve mileage and reduce emissions.

The good news is, the administration's proposed budget is just that — a proposal — and Congress is unlikely to adopt it without major changes. Already, even Republican House members are expressing concern about the EPA cuts.

Businesses that will be adversely affected by some of these proposed cuts should make their voices heard in Congress, and state-level clean air and water agencies must weigh in, too.

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