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Technology & Innovation

Green Tape: America’s Chaotic Environmental Regulation

The constant tug-of-war between governmental bodies over environmental policy, and industry's endless stream of legal challenges, create substantial economic waste.

What’s the Latest Development?

In late 2011, new regulations on interstate air pollution were struck down by a federal court just two days before entering into force. In 2010, the EPA proposed tightening restrictions on ozone three years ahead of schedule. Currently, new rules restricting mercury and soot from power plants face a wall of legal challenges. This sort of confusion over environmental regulation results in wasted money and reluctant investment from industry. That translates into higher prices for consumers and fewer jobs at a time when they are sorely needed.

What’s the Big Idea?

Nobody doubts the necessity of environmental regulation but the current process by which rules are formulated and applied is haphazard. In an attempt to calm businesses, the Obama administration have twisted the Clean Air Act to exempt all but the biggest polluters from coming greenhouse gas restrictions but, by not issuing any rules for them, have created more uncertainty. The courts may be the biggest source of unpredictability. Any rule issued by the EPA is now assumed to face challenges from industry, yet another source of instability.

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