Energy Industry Lobbyists Pull the Plug on Public Protections

Despite repeated claims by Republicans that their signature anti-regulatory measure, the REINS Act (“Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny”) is geared toward helping small business, Public Citizen has learned that the energy industry has by far exerted the most lobbying influence in support of the proposed legislation.

Today’s  report is being released just days after Republicans announced their intention to make passage of the REINS Act a central feature of their legislative agenda this fall. Soon, Republicans will be unleashing a new wave of rhetoric about how overregulation is killing small businesses and preventing job creation, without any mention of the essential benefits that regulation provides in the form of clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, a sound financial system and strong workplace safety protections.

In spite of the Republicans’ insistence that small businesses stand to benefit the most from REINS, lobbying disclosures analyzed in the report reveal that the dominant force behind the push for REINS is in fact a particular industry composed almost exclusively of large corporations: the energy industry.

The report shows that of the 48 organizations that lobbied in favor of REINS during the first half of 2011, 26 were from the energy industry, including 20 electric utilities and the chief trade association for the electric utility industry. Meanwhile, the best known small business advocacy organization, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), did not list REINS among the issues on which it spent $1.4 million lobbying in the first half of 2011.

The REINS Act represents a radical threat to the regulatory process as it would lead to more politics in what should be an objective, science-based enterprise. Regulations that are the result of agency expertise in highly technical matters would be subject to the political whims of members of Congress, and, by extension, potentially their corporate donors.

For example, under REINS, new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations designed to improve air quality by limiting toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power generators would not take effect unless they are approved by both houses of Congress.  Electric utilities spending millions in support of legislation that would allow Congress to block impending EPA regulations by simply failing to act (something Congress has become quite good at recently) is no surprise.

Concerned about the powerful energy industry lobby and the effect REINS would have on critical public protections? Read the report and learn more about the important work Public Citizen is doing, as part of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, to preserve strong public protections here.