Monday, December 9, 2013

Environmental regulations are not burdensome


Tom Kutcher
Narragansett Baykeeper

Our Rhode Island economy has been in a slump and we're all looking for the cause. I have my own theories, but I won't get us all riled up with those here. Instead, I want to focus on one flawed theory I've heard that pins blame on our State environmental regulations. The theory holds that environmental regulations put undue stress on small businesses. I have even heard some public servants say that environmental regulations drive small businesses out of state! Luckily, in a well-conceived and well-written report by our Office of Management and Budget / Office of Regulatory Reform entitled Findings of a 2013 Small Business Survey, the truth has been exposed: Small business owners DO NOT perceive environmental regulations as burdensome. 

The report detailed the results of a survey in which 709 small business leaders were asked to rank the importance of a list of “challenges” facing their businesses. The list included health insurance costs, federal regulations, state regulations, and other potential expenses or impediments. State regulations were identified second to health insurance costs, and respondents were asked to identify the regulations that were most burdensome. The report listed all State regulations that were identified by more than one respondent, and not a single environmental regulation was among them

This was surprising even to me, so I dug deeper. I suspected that perhaps the representation of businesses in the sample was skewed away from businesses most directly affected by environmental regulations, but this was not the case. In fact, the participants from the construction (125), manufacturing (113), and direct resource use/extraction (33) sectors were strongly represented in relation to the average (median) of 22 participants per sector. 

I commend the Office of Regulatory Reform for setting the record straight on this. We rely on our environmental regulations to protect our natural resources, our health, our property values, and our quality of life; and our small businesses get it. Let’s not let unsubstantiated theories threaten those benefits.

- Tom

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