What follows is the text of the public address given by Dr. Robert Heath in Akron, Ohio on Wednesday, 20 September 2017, in opposition of H.R. Bill 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017. The full text of the bill can be found here.
“Most recently I have served on the Lake Erie Phosphorous Objectives Review Panel (LEPOR), a committee of scientists appointed by and acting on behalf of the Science Advisory Board of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of that panel is to assure that the regulations and procedures for managing nutrient inputs into the lake are based on the best sound science currently available. The objective of those regulations is to control the development of of hazardous algal blooms which put toxins into the western basin of Lake Erie. Those toxins possess a direct threat to human health because millions of people on both sides of the US-Canadian border use Lake Erie as a source for drinking water. Cities that depend on Lake Erie as a drinking water source include Toledo and Cleveland. You may recall that those toxins caused a shutdown of drinking water in Toledo in August 2014.
There are two points I want to make regarding the regulatory process:
- It is a long, tedious process, necessarily involving input from numerous stakeholders, including scientific review and public comments. the LEPOR Panel was first convened in October 2014, shortly after the shutdown of the Toledo public water supply. The goal at that time was to have the regulations in place by 2018. It is now certain that the process will take even longer than originally intended. In the meanwhile, hazardous algal blooms continue to recur each year after year.
- Regulations are put in place to protect human health and welfare. It is true that often regulations result in costly upgrades to existing infrastructures, but end up providing greater economic benefits to Americans at large. For example, consider the Toledo water crisis. The necessary upgrade to the Toledo drinking water facilities cost over $1M, yet the cost of effectively shutting down the major city in northwestern Ohio for 4 days far exceeded that cost in lost revenue, jobs, and human efforts to find sufficient drinking water.
My concerns with the legislation proposed by Senator Portman are:
a. that it will greatly lengthen the duration of the regulatory process, conceivably bringing it to a standstill in an endless litigation process;
b. that it is unnecessary because the regulatory process already has sufficient opportunity for input by all stakeholders, including commercial interests; and
c. that it identifies ‘high impact rule’ and ‘major rule’ solely in economic terms, rather than focusing on the impact on human health or economic opportunity. By focusing solely on the economic impact of potential regulations it is intended to support and aggrandize economic interests of the relative few, while leaving the health and welfare of the general American public health in jeopardy.”