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PA: Regulations Are a Heavy Load for Businesses, Farmers to Carry

Today in America, jobs are hard to obtain. The unemployment rate has remained stagnant around 7 percent. When you factor in those who are not receiving unemployment benefits but are actually out of work, the unemployment rate jumps to about 13 percent.

One of the reasons for the high unemployment rate is the increase of regulations at the federal, state and local levels. Many might not consider regulations as a threat to our economic development or ingenuity, but as a small business, we know firsthand the harm of overregulation.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute found that for every law that Congress passes, federal agencies write 51 new regulations. In fact, the federal register now has about 80,000 pages. As a result of the enormous regulation, the USA spends about $1.9 trillion a year on regulations.  That’s about $15,000 per household.

The enormous regulations do not stop at the federal level. Once the federal government begins to mandate them, the various state and local governments do as well. This means every new regulation will ripple across the nation, causing an increase in even more regulations as a result.

Consider the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) increased regulations of the last few years. The EPA, under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process, is actually regulating storm water runoff.

This means that rain water is being regulated by a federal agency. As such, when building a new building or adding an addition to an already existing building, one must seek permission from the EPA so that water runoff, something seemingly benign, can be addressed.

Because the EPA’s NPDES permit requires homes, businesses, and farms to find ways to address rain runoff, entire rain gardens are being built at great cost and time to the owners. In fact, if a small amount of water (such as a drainage ditch) is in your driveway, the Army Corps of Engineers can require new expansive permits for this land.

In Pennsylvania, applying for a storm water runoff permit is a separate process than applying for a building permit. This used to be a rare permit for very large land but is now being used for a smaller land mass. There should be one general permit that encompasses all building regulations, but there is not. Instead, it can take 6 months or longer to receive the storm water runoff permit. If you can’t pass the permit the first two times, your application goes to the back of the line and you must start all over.

There are so many building regulations that regional building inspectors must now oversee all building projects. A regional building inspector is one person that oversees a large territory. It can take months for him or her to get to a building project. This increases expenses and time is lost as a result.

Here in Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now requiring farmers to manage manure pits that basically are cesspools to be treated with chemicals. This comes at a great cost of time and money to the average farmer. Just like their counterparts at the federal level, DEP is regulating water runoff too. Farmers must create water basins for erosion sedimentation (ENS) to collect water runoff in fields. With all the time spent jumping through the hoops of federal and state regulations, it’s a wonder a farmer can find any time to farm at all.

Revisions to the DEP permits now change every month. They used to change yearly. It is nearly impossible to keep up with the frequent changes to DEP’s permitting process. In some cases, if a permit application is filled out before DEP makes a change to its permit process, and that permit takes a while to work its way through the pipeline, that permit can be rejected once it arrives at its destination because the permit revision was made along the way.

These are just some of the many examples – both locally and nationally – of overregulation. The bottom line is, businesses can’t grow, development can’t take place, and farms can’t be farmed when the heavy load they must carry weighs them down on a daily basis. In order to jumpstart our economy, we must lift the regulatory burden.

Photo by Shutterstock.com

Chris Merola

Christopher Merola is the Director of Government Affairs at Penn United Technologies, a small business located in Cabot, Pa.

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Categories: Environment, Government Transparency, Jobs, Must Read, Policy, Regulation
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