A recent headline in The Portland Press Herald stated, “Environmental setbacks feared in Snowe bill.” This was referring to my idea that federal agencies should be compelled to review the regulations they enforce. To indicate that somehow our environment would suffer as a result of ensuring good government is as astonishing as it is wrong.

First, the article states there is “no mandatory time period for review of regulations.” To the contrary, current law requires federal agencies to review their regulations within 10 years of the date of enactment.

My proposal would simply add a requirement that federal agencies conduct reviews at least once every 10 years, or the regulation would expire.

The rationale is simple: If a regulation is not important enough for an agency to conduct a simple review at least once every 10 years, then it is not important enough to be on the books.

The problem is, federal agencies are not complying with current law. This is because when agencies fail to comply, there is no penalty to the government.

However, there can be tremendous, negative consequences for America’s job generators when rules and regulations are outdated, needlessly onerous, or no longer required.


Contrary to the critics quoted in the article, enforcing a regular review of regulations will help the environment. By reviewing regulations, agencies can determine what’s working, what requires improvement, and what is no longer necessary.

For example, regular examination of our nation’s fuel efficiency standards would have led to reduced fuel consumption and increased environmental benefits long ago. I am pleased to have ushered new fuel efficiency standards into law, but a regulatory review such as what I am proposing would have avoided the delayed benefits.

Outdated and ineffective regulations hurt the environment and harm small business.

Why should everyday citizens seeking to create jobs and prosperity bear the brunt of noncompliance by federal agencies that refuse to review the regulations they enforce?

The Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy estimates the annual cost borne by the U.S. economy is $1.75 trillion, and small businesses are burdened with an annual regulatory cost estimated at $10,585 per employee, 36 percent more than the regulatory cost facing large firms.

It is nonsensical that we would expect small business owners to constantly monitor and decipher the more than 163,000 pages of federal code to determine whether their business is in compliance, yet not insist that the federal government, with its vast resources and raft of attorneys, examine the regulations it imposes on others.


Examining and removing unneeded regulations has proven to make a tremendous economic difference, as evidenced by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. With its $9.3 million annual budget, the office in one year saved small businesses nearly $15 billion in forgone regulatory costs between September 2009 and September 2010.

Anecdotally, when my colleague Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and I insisted that OSHA reconsider a noise abatement rule that would have required businesses to install unnecessarily costly equipment to reduce noise levels when less expensive – but just as effective – equipment was available, OSHA quickly backpedaled and revised its regulation. This example cuts to the heart of my legislation.

It took repeated complaints from small businesses and two U.S. senators to force OSHA’s compliance with current law because there is no referee at the federal level to hold federal agencies accountable.

Moreover, I find it concerning that while the article gave significant weight to the arguments of two out-of-state law professors who represent a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, not a single Mainer besides me was contacted for the story.

Absent were the views of members of the National Federation of Independent Business in Maine, the largest voice for Maine’s small business community, who recently went to Augusta to testify about the huge cost and burden of regulatory compliance and how small firms are hit the hardest when overly onerous regulations are left on the books.

On a different scale, consider that Verso Paper Corp., employing more than 1,700 people in Maine, is leading the industry in environmentally sound efforts. Verso has managers who are dedicated to ensuring the company complies with state and federal regulations. But because EPA refused to thoroughly review the cost implications of pending regulations, Verso says it faces the prospect of “spending tens of millions of dollars on questionable or marginally effective regulations.”


Companies like Verso deserve to have predictable, scientifically sound, cost-effective and up-to-date regulatory standards. A periodic review of federal regulations to ensure that the most efficient and effective rules are in place is not too much to ask of our government.

The article concludes with the assertion that federal “agencies are so strapped for staff and resources” that they can’t possibly find time to review their rules once a decade. On this point, it should be noted that nondefense discretionary spending increased 26 percent from 2008 to 2010.

If at a time when nondefense government spending is at an all-time high, agencies still lack adequate funding to review their regulations, then perhaps that’s a sign there are too many regulations and not enough review of best practices taking place.

The reforms I propose will ensure that Maine businesses are properly considered as federal agencies draft rules.

It would be an unnecessary and costly detriment to future economic vitality and job creation in America to believe that implementing key environmental and consumer protections, and constructing these rules to also promote small business prosperity, are mutually exclusive goals. 

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe is the senior U.S. senator from Maine and the ranking member of the Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.


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