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Sept. 14, 2011 

Regulatory Process Is Broken, Public Citizen Tells Congress

Testimony Details Benefits of Safeguards, Debunks Myths

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The record of U.S. health, safety and environmental regulation has been strikingly successful, and Congress should reduce barriers to commonsense regulations, Public Citizen said today in congressional testimony.

“In light of the strong record of regulatory successes in the country and the devastating consequences of poor oversight, it is surprising that U.S. health, safety and environmental protection agencies are some of the most heavily regulated entities in the country,” David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “Congress should get to work on reducing the unnecessary burdens placed on the agencies that protect our lives and our economy.”

The testimony outlines remarkable benefits from public safeguards – including those from agencies under fire for their purportedly “burdensome” regulations.

For example, before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1971, an average of 14,000 workers died annually from occupational injuries. In 2009, despite a doubling of the size of workforce, deaths on the job had been reduced to 4,340. And more than 164,000 lives were saved in 2010, thanks to the Clean Air Act – a figure that is expected to increase to 237,000 lives annually by 2020.

Conversely, in a country that is under-regulated, the lives of workers and the public are on the line. A lack of regulation was to blame for the Wall Street crash, the BP oil spill, Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch disaster and a number of food and product recalls, the testimony said.

Public safeguards provide other benefits, as well. Regulations that require companies to upgrade or buy new equipment would boost the economy by requiring companies to spend idle cash on better equipment, creating additional demand for goods and services – which means more jobs. Regulations also can spark innovation, the testimony said, citing a Public Citizen report released Tuesday.

Even when viewed in narrow economic terms, the benefits of major regulations have vastly outweighed the costs. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in 2011 that regulations issued in the past decade have resulted in benefits ranging from $132 billion to $655 billion, compared to costs ranging from $44 billion to $62 billion – on average a 700 percent return on investment.

“There aren’t many places one finds a 700 percent return on investment, but U.S. health, safety and environmental regulation is one of them,” said Arkush. “We should reward these successes, not punish them. Congress should streamline onerous requirements on public-protection agencies and give them the resources they need to do their jobs.”

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