Should states be required to cover the costs of administering nearly all federally mandated environmental programs when they only receive federal funding to cover just over a quarter of those costs? At the NC Chamber, we do not believe that should be the case. But according to the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), in 2014 states were responsible for administering 96.5 percent of all federal delegated environmental programs while, at the same time, federal funding only covered about 28 percent of the state’s administrative costs for these programs. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new study, The Growing Burden of Unfunded EPA Mandates and the States, which details this unfortunate trend and encourages federal leaders to take action now to fix it.
In an insightful blog post accompanying the new report, William Kovacs, senior vice president for the environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber, describes how a once mutually beneficial relationship between state governments and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has devolved into an onerous association in which states have taken on a steadily mounting regulatory burden while receiving less and less federal assistance to cover that burden. At the heart of this issue is the governmental concept known as “federalism” which lies at the root of the American system. Under a true system of federalism, states share an equal but delineated allotment of power with the federal government. However, what has occurred in recent decades with the EPA’s increasing overreach is a direct affront to the federalist system – and if states attempt to take back control by, for instance, disregarding unfair federal mandates, they face a constant threat of federal takeover by the EPA.
In today’s environment, regulations cost Americans nearly $2 trillion every year. Concerns over these burdensome regulations continue to be an issue that remains top of mind for NC Chamber member companies and other job creators across our state. While the NC Chamber’s advocacy efforts have helped North Carolina make great strides in recent years to support a balanced, competitive regulatory environment at the state level, federal leaders must take action to achieve these same goals at the national level. Fortunately, the U.S. Chamber’s new report includes a number of concrete calls to action for federal leaders; for example, it calls on Congress to take specific steps to preserve federal-state regulatory cooperation, including redefining the term “mandate” in the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act and enacting the Regulatory Accountability Act and the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act.
The NC Chamber stands with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in this fight against federal regulatory overreach. We will keep you updated as this issue continues to evolve.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber