EPA Tops Record for Regulatory Burden

Report: Agency now imposes 188 million hours of paperwork

June 28, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency now imposes nearly 200 million hours of paperwork to comply with its regulations, as new rules have skyrocketed under the Obama administration.

A new report released by the American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, found complying with the agency’s rules now requires 188 million paperwork hours, the equivalent of 95,000 Americans working full time for a year.

"Years of regulatory accumulation, especially under the Obama administration have pushed EPA’s paperwork burden to its highest level in history," the report, written by Sam Batkins, said. "Year after year of new regulatory costs have not only translated into shuttered power plants, but also new reporting and recordkeeping requirements. EPA’s paperwork burden now stands at 188 million hours."

"To put this in perspective, it would take more than 94,200 employees working full-time (2,000 hours a year) to complete one year of EPA paperwork," the report continued. "The agency’s burden has surged 23 percent since 2009 and 34 percent since 2002."

The report found the EPA’s increase in paperwork burdens is not due to its new major regulations, but to new requirements for regulations already on the books.

"The agency has been busy: the Clean Power Plan, Fuel Efficiency Standards, the Ozone Rule, and Waters of the United States," the report said. "However, none of these measures imposed especially large reporting and recordkeeping costs; a majority of the burdens were in the form of capital costs."

"The anatomy of record paperwork is a combination of lesser-known new requirements and massive upward revisions of existing paperwork collections," the report said.

The EPA has added millions of paperwork hours to regulations for its spill prevention, its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, and the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.

Further, the EPA added 1 million hours of paperwork to its "Citizen Science Projects" program, 4 million paperwork hours to lead training, and 4 million through its agricultural worker protection program.

Adding to the burden, the agency requires much of its regulatory paperwork to be submitted by hand. Thirty percent of forms that must be filled out to comply with the agency’s regulations cannot be submitted online, the report found.

This is not the only policy harmful to the agency’s carbon footprint. The EPA also "prints in bulk," which has wasted at least 8 million pages of paper and cost more than 300,000 pounds in carbon emissions.

"In an administration that continues to collect regulatory records: most expensive year of regulation, highest number of major rules, and priciest single regulation, EPA’s paperwork plaudit only adds to the list," the report concluded. "Although the agency is primarily known for the capital costs it imposes on industry, many of which are passed on to consumers, its paperwork burden shouldn’t be overlooked. With four major rules under review now, it’s likely 188 million hours isn’t the agency’s red tape ceiling."

Published under: EPA