State regulators face a difficult situation

An editorial from The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Environmental regulators in West Virginia must walk two fine lines. One is between air, water and soil quality and the economy. The other, of course, is between what they think is good for the Mountain State and what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demands.

Public hearings on a variety of revisions to environmental rules are to be held later this month in Charleston by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Rules in question involve hazardous air pollutants, water quality in general, horizontal drilling of gas and oil wells, surface mining reclamation, penalties for infractions in the coal industry and regulation of above-ground storage tanks.

Obviously, virtually every industry – read, “job creator” – in the state will be affected directly or indirectly by the changes.

Environmental quality – ensuring we have clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and soil free of serious hazards – is and should be state officials’ top concern. But that does not mean they should minimize the effect of environmental quality rules on the economy.

Just a few days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal EPA did not consider the cost of air quality rules adequately before finalizing them. That order has enormous ramifications for the coal industry and reasonably priced electricity.

It also is an affirmation of state policies that take the cost of regulations into account, weighing benefits honestly against the financial impacts on companies and families.

It is to be hoped state regulators will receive just that type of input during their hearings from July 21-30. Before rules changes are finalized, the DEP and other agencies involved should take that cost-benefit analysis into consideration.

Critics of regulatory flexibility point out the cost of complying with government rules is just part of the burden of doing business. Here in West Virginia, the business climate is affected by any number of other factors.

All the more reason to ensure costly government mandates are essential. State officials can do little or nothing about many factors that discourage job creators from opening up shop or expanding in our state. But they can – and should – do all in their power to avoid creating unnecessary regulations that keep West Virginians from getting jobs.

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