The EPA has long been an organization up for debate – whether it truly protects the environment, or if it inadvertently discourages growth. It is a trivial topic with support for both viewpoints. Advocates for limiting the EPA in size and budget point to its overreach, inadvertent discouragement of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the inefficiencies it inherently produces. Conversely, supporters of the EPA argue it protects the environment, and society at large, from harmful products. Although the opposing viewpoint is valid and presents strong arguments for the retention of current EPA budgets, the advocates for limiting the size and budget of the EPA propose a strong and, often, more convincing argument. The main issues of the EPA lie in its overreach on industry and society, its depression of innovation, and the inefficiencies it produces through mere operation.
In regards to its overreach on the private sector, it seems the EPA knows no bounds when encroaching on both industry and society. By limiting the EPA’s budget and size, it would give power back to the markets; industries would not feel pressured by the EPA to abide by regulations that hamper and diminish profitability – often times leading to corporations leaving the industry. By limiting the EPA’s overreach and providing a stronger platform for checks-and-balances among its operations, industry and society would profit from greater competition, as will be discussed later. It has long been known the EPA wants to discourage and dismantle industries it finds environmentally harmful – from the coal industry to spray-in insulation, the EPA has had many targets. For example, in 2014 the EPA vetoed a large copper and gold mine that was to be developed in Alaska; the ruling was based on incomplete science without a public hearing. This example of overreach has clear economic ramifications that extend beyond a community in Alaska. if copper and gold were mined, the opportunity for greater competition in their respective markets is possible. Society loses because jobs are not created and consumers at large, from jewelry consumers to housing developers, lose prospective benefits from the increased supply of copper and cold, as well as increased competition. Additionally, the EPA attempted to study the showering habits of guests at hotels under the guise of interest in water usage and efficiency. This serves as a clear overstep and destruction of personal privacy to test theories that often have clear results. It is not surprising people use resources more when they are not paying for them directly. Encouraging more efficiency in hotels is a bonus. This example serves as both an overreach of the EPA and and inefficiency, as will be discussed later. By limiting the EPA’s overreaches, the economy would become a freer enterprise for industry, privacy, and competition; industries would not have to worry about EPA overreach that allow it to dismantle practices only it finds inappropriate. Industries would form, benefiting society with jobs, competition, and innovation, and the market would decide many practices efficiently.
Similar to its apparent overreach, the EPA often discourages innovation and entrepreneurship. In the late 1970’s, my grandfather owned a spray-in insulation business. The product being used was UFFI, urea formaldehyde foam insulation. UFFI was an injection foam used for insulation; although the EPA believed the amount of formaldehyde used in the process was harmful, tests showed levels of formaldehyde were practically zero a few days after injection. In anticipation of the EPA knocking on his door, my grandfather closed his business and took up work elsewhere. With roughly 3,120 regulations imposed by the EPA since 2009, there is clear over-regulation and discouragement for new ideas and innovation. Using my grandfather as just one example, it is clear the EPA’s regulations diminish innovation and discovery. Since UFFI was found relatively safe, it can be used now. Through their policies, the EPA shuts down businesses and prevents their continued research and development; it is important to consider the possibilities my grandfather may have achieved had the EPA not developed such stern, and off base, regulations. By operating in industries, competition among corporations inherently encourages innovation. When regulation forces corporations out of their industries, innovation is not fully realized. The EPA, as mentioned above, used tactics to prevent industries they found harmful. In the absence of the counterfactual, it is hard to say how this may have benefited the economy. It is widely known that regulations creates barriers to industry and thus, in a sense, impose contractions upon the economy. The EPA’s regulations can be seen in light of hindering continued growth as well as innovation. Pertaining to this issue, it is important to consider whether the EPA should be creating the regulations, or should the market recognize the imperfections and negative externalities. If the regulations had been absent, the economy may have operated as the market was intended and innovation and development would create alternatives, better than what was available. By dissolving regulations that prohibit innovation, the economy could allow the market to increase competition and employment, lower prices, and increase aggregate demand – all of which benefit society as a whole.
Finally, it is important to consider the inefficiencies the EPA creates as proponents of limiting its size and budget, which encompass many of its pitfalls in regards to innovation and overreach. As of late January, Donald Trump’s presidency has barred the EPA from hiring and providing grants, and limited the EPA’s business activities by cutting the budget, $8.5 billion, by 31% to $5.8 billion. In regards to efficiency, this frees up government revenue to tackle bigger issues – defense spending, debt, and the alike. By limiting the EPA, money is freed up to address areas of the government that truly need it. To represent the inefficiency of the EPA, a study in 2015 found 30% of its capital equipment was left to deteriorate. This truly shows the EPA is operating beyond its means, and by limiting its budget and size, there is revenue available for other areas. Market efficiency would steer the use of the funds to projects that provide the most social welfare. The economic benefits to diminishing inefficiencies extend to many markets and provide a platform for society to reach a more optimal level of economic freedom.
While the EPA’s overreaches, apparent hindering of innovation, and inefficiencies are important to note, it is also important to recognize the EPA often helps with regulating harmful products. In 1972, the EPA banned the insecticide DDT on the grounds of its harmful nature. DDT has been linked to being a carcinogen and is considered poisonous. This is just one example of many that shows the EPA does, in fact, make society better off. In this case, the EPA inserted itself into a market to ban a product that it believed to be harmful in order to help society at large. While the above arguments provide examples and benefits as to why limiting the EPA can expand the economy, it is important to note the EPA is still a viable organization that must not be dissolved altogether.
While I argue for limiting the size of the EPA, I do not suggest it would be appropriate to dismantle altogether. By recognizing the alternative viewpoint of the EPA’s benefits, it becomes increasingly apparent it provides society a service that may not be realized in its absence. It is important to note the above reasons as proponents of limiting the size of the EPA, but it is also important to consider its increasingly political nature. The EPA seems to have become more polarized, and this may serve as its true downfall. As an independent government organization, maybe the most important issue to tackle first, before limiting its size, is getting rid of the polarization of politics that appears to dictate its decision.