REPORT: Business Lobbyists Demand Rep. Issa Launch Assault On Key Environmental, Financial Regulations

In December, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) outsourced his job to business lobbyists when he sent letters to over 150 trade associations and companies, asking them to outline which Obama administration regulations he should target as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He sent the letters to a wide array of fossil fuel producers, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, telecommunications companies, and other interests.

Issa has repeatedly refused to share the responses he received from these industry leaders, even with Democrats on his committee, though he promises to do so soon. While Issa drags his feet, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on Issa’s committee, has sent letters to each group asking for a copy of the responses, noting that “[w]ithholding Committee records is not only a violation of House rules, but a waste of time that could have been avoided with the smallest degree of bipartisan cooperation.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has also made the same request of the companies and trade groups, and received 33 voluntary responses. Many heavy-hitting business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Monsanto Corporation, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers declined to reply to CREW. But a review of the companies that did voluntarily respond illustrates a concentrated industry push to combat regulations on everything from lead paint standards to EPA emission rules to fire testing of mattresses:

The American Chemistry Council is opposed to recently proposed EPA standards on boilers and incinerators, which are designed to “significantly cut emissions of pollutants that are of particular concern for children.”


— In a nine-page letter, the Business Rountable outlines 22 regulations it would like changed, in “three major areas of greatest concern: environmental regulation, financial reform, and health care and retirement benefits.” In the financial reform category, Business Roundtable opposes in no particular order: CEO pay disclosure rules, disclosure of the use of “conflict minerals,” whistleblower protections, and derivatives regulation.

The National Multi Housing Council wants a “review and investigation” of the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rules, which the industry group asserts “pose a major obstacle for a [housing] market recovery.” The rules require safety measures for contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint, which “can be harmful to adults and children.”

The American Coke and Coal Chemicals Institute requested a wide-ranging review of several EPA regulations, which it believes is necessary because, in the past two years, the “EPA has undertaken an unprecedented regulatory agenda by promulgating or proposing a host of rules in the areas of air, water, solid waste, greenhouse gases, and toxic chemicals.” In particular, ACCC singles out actions by the U.S. Geological Service to regulate coal tar, a byproduct of cokemaking often used as driveway sealant, and which contains “polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.” The ACCC admits in the letter that PAHs “have been identified as hazardous to health and aquatic life.” Nevertheless, ACCC writes: “[USGS] actions have serious implications for our industry’s marketing of these sealants and threaten the economic viability and jobs of hundreds of small businesses that distribute and apply sealants…. We believe oversight investigations into the USGS’s actions in this matter are in order.”

The International Sleep Products Association is upset with rules requiring flammability tests for childrens’ mattresses — the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Act requires that mattresses and other products marketed to children undergo flammability testing by an accredited laboratory. But ISPA notes that “the incidence of mattress fires, deaths, and injury and property damage, have dropped substantially,” and that “[t]he costs of these flammability tests can range from to $1150 to $2650 per mattress prototype.”

The American Petroleum Institute attacks a wide array of EPA regulations in its letter. API also criticizes provisions in the 2007 Clean Energy Act that limit the ability of U.S. refiners to process oil sands from Canada. Oil sand extraction is famously “polluting, destructive, expensive, and energy-intensive,” but API asserts in its letter that “regulations posing constraints on oil sands processing in the US limits the potential creation of 342,000 new jobs in the US between 2011 and 2015.”

The Industrial Minerals Association criticized in its letter a wide array of EPA regulations, including ones that haven’t even been passed yet — the IMA names “potential regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act” as one such danger.

Issa says he will release all of the responses he received on February 11, along with a “Republican staff analysis.” It will be interesting to see how many of these destructive requests to dismantle key environmental, financial, and consumer safety regulations Issa ends up endorsing.