NLC Backs Cost-Benefit Analysis to Smoke out Unfunded Mandates

Article excerpt

NLC President Brian O'Neill urged the Senate to strengthen and adapt legislation to reduce the cost of unfunded federal regulatory mandates on cities. "There is little evidence," O'Neill testified, "of meaningful compliance with the Unfunded Federal Mandates Relief Act". It is especially important to get positive action on this bill to help all cities, but especially smaller cities."

The bill, the Regulatory Improvement Act of 1998 (S. 981) would include cost benefit analysis and risk assessment of new and current federal regulation in the rulemaking process and regulatory flexibility for small entities and locals governments. Cities and towns could reap substantial benefits through the improvements in the regulatory process that are included in this legislation. Benefits include helping municipal officials avert preemptive and costly regulations that are placed on local governments and gaining a more powerful voice in the regulatory rulemaking process.

These mandatory assessment procedures would occur as soon as a regulation is proposed by a federal agency and include quantifiable and non-quantifiable costs of the proposed rule. Rules involving health, safety, or environmental risk would also include a risk assessment.

Similar to the Unfunded Mandates Relief Act of 1995, the new bill would provide for the input of local, state, and tribal governments in the regulatory process. This would require federal agencies to ensure that cities would be able to provide meaningful and timely input into the development of regulatory proposals containing significant federal intergovernmental mandates. This type of partnership could save cities millions of dollars in burdensome regulations.

Costs of Regulation

Cities are directly affected by the high costs of federal regulation that have a significant economic impact. In the statement O'Neill submitted, he cited regulatory examples that need review. He said cities like:

* Shelton, Conn., with a population of 35,418, are impacted indirectly by the Clean Water Act through rate increases around 7 percent because of hydrant water charges from privately owned water supplies. The Clean Water Act has required sewerage authorities to take over a wide range of responsibilities, such as obtaining permits for point source discharges to publicly owned treatment works and direct discharges by industry.

* Midland, Mich. (population 37,250) faces requirements by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) on solid waste disposal that will increase the cost of disposal by 800 percent, despite the fact that the city landfill requires no liner due to 75 feet of clay.

* San Marcos, Tex. (population 28,743) is faced with higher tax and utility bills because of arbitrary standards on contaminants, analytical analysis, and treatment, in addition to public notification procedures that are borne by water suppliers that are mandate by the Safe Drinking Water Act. …