COLUMBUS — The issue of environmental regulations has been in the news lately, and at a time when some political candidates are calling for the relaxation or eliminations of regulations as a way to spark economic growth.
A March report released by Environment America showed that Indiana factories dumped more pounds of pollutants — 27 million — into waterways than any other state.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued regulations that would curb air pollution from natural gas wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
The Republic asked the Democratic and Republican candidates for Indiana’s 6th District congressional seat for their views about regulations as they pertain to economic growth and the need for oversight and accountability.
The Republican candidates acknowledge the need for certain regulations, but largely support streamlining the process or reducing the number in place.
Regulations need to be in place to prevent “greedy people” from using and abusing “the system and the environment,” said Joe Sizemore, a factory worker from Metamora.
“You don’t have to destroy our planet to make a product. Industries that produce the most pollution, if left unchecked could get out of hand real fast. A lot of the problems could be fixed if the people are willing to do it,” he added.
Joseph Van Wye Sr., an electronic service technician from Madison, said not all regulations are bad. Ones that help protect employees from hazardous situations, for example, are needed.
“Where the problem is, some regulations add to the cost of doing business,” he said. “Multiple environmental studies are a good example. Sometimes these studies add years to get a project off the ground and rolling, most of the time the additional studies do not change anything.”
Everyone wants clean air, clean water, safe food, safe work environments and sound banking, and regulations help ensure these for people, said Luke Messer, a former state representative who lives in Shelbyville. But he believes that the federal government over-regulates with “bureaucratic red tape that defies common sense” and stifles the ability of local businesses to create jobs.
“We must streamline review processes to efficiently approve or deny permits. We must encourage private investment without hyper-regulating the areas in which investment should be made. Most importantly, wherever possible, regulatory authority should be returned to the states,” Messer said.
Columbus’ Travis Hankins, a real estate investor, believes many regulations are put in place to give special interest groups an advantage over their competitors. He supports some added regulations but largely would like to see most cut.
“I believe the banking industry needs more regulation — more reserves — and every other industry needs their regulations cut, if not eliminated altogether, at the federal level,” Hankins said. “When we eliminate all unnecessary federal regulations, we will see job growth.”
Don Bates Jr., a financial adviser from Richmond, said the Environmental Protection Agency has added thousands of pages of regulations under President Obama’s administration, which he believes have hindered economic growth in the 6th District.
“Regulations managed effectively by the states should not be duplicated by the federal government. We should drastically reduce the federal government’s role in regulation,” Bates said.
The regulatory system is out of control, said Bill Frazier, a business owner from Muncie, because it is run by bureaucrats who he believes have not spent a day in the private sector creating jobs.
“We have gotten way beyond establishing fair business laws to the point where Congress regulates how much water a toilet can flush,” Frazier said. “We need new more technically (advanced) water filtration plants that can clean water faster and cheaper and not tell someone how much water they can use in their private homes and businesses.”
Brad Bookout, an economic development consultant from Yorktown, supports business regulations, but they must be within the bounds of constitutional liberties and provide informed consent for consumers.
“The standard for making regulatory policy also should be overall effectiveness and efficiency,” he said.
While countering predatory practices and reckless disregard for public safety and financial soundness, attention must be paid to the possible negative effect that raising the regulatory threshold has on creativity, innovation and the startup of new enterprises, Bookout added.
A comprehensive investigation of the regulations placed on financial, governmental and business organizations is needed, said Jim Crone, a sociology professor at Hanover College.
“We, in Congress, would need to go through the current regulations that we have in these respective areas and then find a reasonable balance between freedom and abuse and accountability, he said. “Where there is too much regulation that is unneeded, then scale it back. Where there is the lack of regulation and there is abuse and irresponsibility, we need to add the appropriate balance of regulation.”
Corporate profits should be the last consideration when examining regulations, and employee and consumer safety should be the first, said George Holland, a retired pharmaceutical salesman from Rushville.
He said consumers in financial markets have suffered because of a lack of regulations.
“More severe regulations and laws are needed for the policing of the Wall Street banks and of Wall Street. Current laws need to be enforced,” he said.
Eliminating regulations considered burdensome to business is not what will spark economic growth and create jobs, said Dan Bolling, a biotech entrepreneur from Centerville.
“Public policy focus should be first and foremost on strengthening buying power of the middle class,” he said, adding that this will help generate consumer demand.
Susan Hall Heitzman, a retired school teacher from North Vernon, did not provide an answer specific to the issue of regulations. However, she supports local control of utilities, such as water and electricity, and communications companies.
“When we pay for something and the control is local, we do not see exorbitant amounts going to administrative costs,” she said. “When utilities and community services become privatized we lose the control.”