Reining in the Regulators

Lawmaker wants environmental enforcers to fess up to the economic cost of their rules

Greg MacMaster says he wants to force Michigan’s environmental regulators to face up to their impact on Michigan’s economy.

The Republican state representative from Kewadin has introduced House Bill 4044. If enacted into law it would require regulatory agencies to submit a cost-benefit analysis before new environmental regulations could be imposed.

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“It doesn’t stop them from making any rules,” said Chris Bailey, a legislative staffer for MacMaster. “What we are hoping is that it will alleviate frivolous rules. … All we want to see is a cost-benefit analysis of the rules they are making.”

Critics have long complained that burdensome environmental regulations hurt businesses.

“It would force them to research what their value is to Michigan’s economy,” MacMaster said. “If we are going to help turn this state around, we need every department to realize that they need to help turn it around. We can’t have bureaucratic red tape.”

The state’s environmental regulators don’t always do a detailed analysis of new regulations, but sometimes produce a “paper” that looks at the impact of regulations on small business, a spokeswoman said.

“We do not always have the detailed data to do a cost-benefit analysis of regulations adopted in Michigan and some regulations are more suited to that type of analysis than others,” said Mary Dettloff of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, in an e-mail. “We have utilized federal analyses for state rules that are adopted as part of a program delegated to the state to provide more of an assessment than an analysis. We generally do develop a paper required by the promulgation process that requires that we reveal the impact to small business in the state.”

Former Department of Environmental Quality Director Russ Harding said the state needs to know how it impacts businesses.

“If the agency cannot figure out what the costs and benefits are for a regulation then they should not issue the rule,” Harding wrote in an e-mail.  “We cannot afford that type of reckless government regulation.

Harding, now the senior environmental policy analyst for the Mackinac Center, said a cost-benefit analysis is not a panacea.

“It is only one of a number of things that need to be done,” Harding said. “To do that and think you fixed the problem isn’t enough.”