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Business community has its guns aimed at the environment, financial reforms

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In a bid to roll back laws and regulations, some passed and some proposed, in the last two years, business conglomerates have targeted a handful of federal agencies -- with the Environmental Protection Agency receiving the bulk of the attention -- in reply to a request by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., calling for industry feedback on which rules the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should investigate.

Issa, the Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee released close to 2000 pages of letters, research studies, expert testimonials and comments addressed to the executive bodies in charge of the rule making. The documents received were in reply to
Issa’s request in December 2010 asking for industry comments on regulations that have created a negative job growth.

From the all-powerful Chamber of Commerce to oil and natural gas companies such as Chevron and Conoco Phillips to car companies including Ford and Toyota, the companies and their trade groups have reiterated how stringent environmental laws have caused production costs to skyrocket leading to job loses, causing a deep long-lasting economic crisis. Rulemaking by a few other agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the barely established Consumer Finance Security Board that was created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and the Department of Agriculture and Transportation Security Agency are also targeted, the document release shows.

The Reporting Group has uploaded the responses released earlier in the week by the committee to Document Cloud; they can be accessed here. Most of the documents are letters to Issa from several dozen business associations and in some cases individual companies.

The Chamber of Commerce, the venue for President Obama’s speech earlier this week imploring the business community to get on board with his administrations priorities, criticizes his administration in one response, writing that the administration “has largely spent the past 24 months attempting to modify, re-issue, or reinterpret virtually every controversial environmental regulatory decision of the past decade.”

The Chamber one of the most prolific lobbying group in the last 12 years--it's disclosed spending more than $700 million on lobbying over that time--chastised the “strict compliance” forced on the industry by congressional directive or court order with little regard to the impact on the community. The letter specifically talks about the Chesapeake Bay storm water runoff and the Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule change proposed by the EPA in April 2010. Recently, the EPA’s request for extending the comment period was denied by a court order forcing the agency to propose new rules in the next few months on industrial and commercial boilers. The new rules also calls for better monitoring of the emissions.

The Chamber also provides the committee with a “how to fix the problem” section, arguing that there are several good ideas circulating in Congress to fix the "regulatory tsunami" businesses are facing and are calling on the Issa's committee and regulatory agencies such as the EPA to consider job losses and economic impact of the enforcement of the regulations.

The Council of Industrial Boiler Owners also commented on the boiler rules, saying the new regulation will increase costs and for every billion spent on upgrade it may reduce the U.S. GDP by about $1.2 billion.

Similarly, the American Forest and Paper Association says Boiler MACT could impose $6 billion in costs and an additional $20 billion on manufacturers leading to a high loss in jobs caused due to mill closures, while the American Chemistry Council submitted research studies  showing how their industry could lose up to 60,000 jobs.

The Chemistry Council in 2010 has spent more than $8 million in lobbying Congress and federal agencies. Other EPA laws targeted by the industry are the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform was another law that was repeatedly cited across the documents. According to documents submitted by the Credit Union Advocacy Organization, which represents 90 percent of the federal credit unions, changes in the regulation in bank card fees will force financial institutions to find other ways to cover costs and will “absolutely hit the pocketbooks of Americans holding debit cards.”

Also, the American Petroleum Institute picked on Section 1504 of the financial bill, a transparency provision, which requires companies registered with the SEC to report all payments made to the federal or any foreign government if it relates to the commercial development of oil and gas. But API’s claim is that this provision goes against internationally set rules, and places U.S. companies at a disadvantage, jeopardizing jobs in the bargain.

The other major issue cited in the letters is health care, spearheaded by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. They are asking for the repeal of the individual mandate, which requires citizens to purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty and the 1099 reporting provision, which requires businesses to file forms with the Internal Revenue Service for every transaction they make with a supplier or servicer of $600 or more. According to their letter, the 1099 requirement imposes a “paperwork nightmare on America’s small businesses.” They also call for the repeal of the employer mandate, which pushes employers to provide health care, implementation that could lead to heavy overhead costs and job losses, according to the Council.