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The EPA’s $1 Trillion in New Regulations Under Biden

Posted: Apr 25, 2024

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now finalized over $1.1 trillion in new regulations under the Biden administration, according to the American Action Forum’s Regulation Rodeo database.

To put that figure into context, it surpasses the total cost of all new regulations imposed during the entire Obama administration. Excluding EPA’s new regulations, the Biden administration has otherwise issued upwards of $300 billion in new rules.

But the EPA is a unique gusher of red-tape under the Biden administration as it was under Obama. During the 20-year span between 2005 and 2024, federal regulators finalized a combined 6,697 regulations, imposing a net $2.5 trillion in costs on the economy, according to AAF. Since 2021, the EPA under President Biden has finalized 52 regulations with $1.1 trillion in costs to the economy. Not even through his first term, Biden’s EPA has racked up nearly half of the total burden imposed by all federal regulators combined over the last two decades.

To be sure, this figure is substantially driven by the Biden administration’s new tailpipe emissions rule that would impose $870 billion in new costs on the economy. This is typical of the heavy-handed regulatory approach pioneered by the Obama administration and supercharged under the Biden administration.

There is a conspicuous break in the trend of agency rulemaking, specifically under the Trump administration. On net, the Trump administration finalized regulations with a net cost of about $40 billion – most of which stem from rulemakings on the final day of the administration. Over the balance of the Trump administration, the net cost of rulemaking was relatively flat. This reflects a remarkable exercise in regulatory restraint, particularly after the $890 billion regulatory burden imposed under the Obama administration.

There are myriad examples of the Biden administration’s preference for intrusive regulation compared to the Trump administration’s approach. From housing to drilling to showerheads, the Biden administration restored and accelerated the Obama-era regulatory state.

Another example relates to the regulation of certain chemicals. Even under the lighter-handed approach to regulation under the Trump administration, some rules had positive costs, but were largely offset with savings elsewhere by regulators over time. Under the Trump administration, the EPA restricted consumer uses of a chemical known as methylene chloride. That 2019 rulemaking was estimated to have a total cost of about $190 million and imposing 69 hours in total paperwork burdens.

But that wasn’t quite good enough for activist environmental groups, which sued the Trump administration for not seeking to ban the chemical outright. The Biden administration appears happy to oblige this effort and has proposed a substantially more restrictive regulation that would essentially ban its production and use in all but a few defense and federal aerospace applications. 

Less well-understood are the many ways this chemical is essential to several facets of American industry and critical to certain pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, among other uses. Senators Manchin, Capito and Vance have expressed concerns over the EPA’s approach, not least because the rule could shutter the U.S. polycarbonate industry, jeopardize the supply chains of drugs, and further export chemical production to foreign adversaries, such as China. It is somewhat remarkable that the EPA would couch its new regulation in terms of worker safety, when the professional society for chemists has asked for certain exemptions from the new rule.

This approach reflects the stark differences in regulatory regimes over the last several administrations. The Obama administration imposed nearly $900 billion in new regulatory costs, essentially an annual $100 billion tax hike. The Trump administration essentially held the regulatory state in check. The Biden administration decided to see the Obama era burden and raise it past the Trillion dollar mark. Taking into account the negative potential these rules will have on industry, the EPA’s actions may very well have devastating consequences for all Americans and our way of life.