On September 23, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to forestall the approaching ” EPA train wreck” – commonly understood as the unprecedented economic damage to result from the slew of new EPA regulations. Known as the TRAIN Act (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts to the Nation, H.R. 2401), the measure requires a comprehensive disclosure of the costs and benefits of the many EPA rules. Thankfully, the analysis is to be conducted not by EPA, but by an interagency committee composed of cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs, chaired by the Secretary of Commerce. The U.S. Senate has introduced a similar bill, called the CARE Act (Comprehensive Assessment of Regulations on the Economy Act).

The TRAIN Act would require a far broader assessment of economic impacts than EPA is now required to do. In addition to impacts on regulated entities, the analysis would include cumulative and incremental effects on: U.S. employment, the global economic competitiveness of energy-intensive and trade-sensitive industries, regional fuel and electricity supplies, the reliability and adequacy of the bulk power supply in the U.S., consumers, small business, state governments and labor markets. The committee’s preliminary report is due to Congress by January 31, 2012. Following a public comment period of 90 days, the TRAIN Act’s final report is due August 1, 2012.

The EPA rules covered by the TRAIN Act include: the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, New National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxides and particulate matter; Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT) standards for electric utilities, industrial boilers, and cement kilns; disposal of coal combustion residuals, and greenhouse gas regulations. These regulations are those labeled as the EPA train-wreck. The TRAIN Act would delay adoption of those rules now pending and suspend the legal effectiveness of those rules already adopted, such as the Cross-State Air Pollution rule.

This EPA’s regulatory initiative, which catalyzed the TRAIN Act, constitutes “a regulatory spree unprecedented in U.S. history,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The cumulative impact of these rules, all coming into effect within the next three years, is uncharted territory in the four decades of federal environmental regulation. Voices from diverse quarters such as the Federal Electric Reliability Commission, organized labor and small business predict that these EPA rules will undermine the reliability of the U.S. electricity supply and augur national job losses in excess of one million.

Although the TRAIN Act does not provide congressional authority to quash EPA regulations it will force the leadership of the executive agencies and all of Congress to confront the magnitude of EPA’s regulatory spree. The TRAIN Act does, however, prevent EPA from adopting or implementing of the rules covered by the bill until six months after issuance of the TRAIN Act’s final report – January 2013. In effect, this is a one year “time-out” to scrutinize the impacts and alleged benefits of EPA’s regulatory spree. “

– Kathleen Hartnett White