New federal rules do more good than harm to the economy, says OMB

Posted: Apr 29, 2013

Written by

Jean Chemnick, E&E
Coal fired power plant

The benefits outweighed costs of most of the major rules and regulations that federal agencies issued last year, according to a report released yesterday by the White House.

The Office of Management and Budget is required to provide a report to Congress each year on the costs and benefits of new final rules that might have a significant effect on the economy. This year's report analyzed the effects of 47 major rules promulgated by seven agencies between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012, which accounts for 19 percent of all of the rules finalized last year by federal agencies.

The 14 rules the report judged to be the most economically significant of that group yielded combined benefits between $53.2 billion and $114.6 billion each year, according to the report. The cost of those rules fell between $14.8 billion and $19.5 billion each year.

U.S. EPA churned out 32 economically significant rules last year, compared with 12 from the Energy Department and five from the Department of Agriculture. EPA's rules were also judged to have the largest collective impact on the economy, generating $112 billion to $637.6 billion per year in benefits such as avoided health care costs. They cost regulated entities $30.4 billion to $36.5 billion a year, the report said.

DOE's rules offered benefits of up to $15.3 billion a year compared with up to $5.5 billion in costs, it said, compared with USDA's maximum $1.3 billion benefits for up to $1.2 billion in cost.

A new hazardous air emissions rule for fossil fuel and coal-fired power plants was one of the costliest finalized last year, as well as being one of the most beneficial, OMB said.

The so-called utility MACT rule would cost $8.2 billion a year in compliance costs, with state, local and tribal entities shelling out more than $100 million for implementation.

A biomass biodiesel rule EPA finalized last year would require the production of 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel this year under the renewable fuels standard at a total cost of $207 million to $311 million.

The report is likely to provide fodder for congressional Republicans who have argued that EPA rules hurt the economy. They are also likely to challenge the administration's assumptions about the rules' benefits.

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