In the April 8, 2011 edition of the Portland Business Journal, Congressman Earl Blumenauer recognized the inneficiency of our current regulatory environment and opportunities for the public and private sector to work together to improve it.  We agree with Congressman Blumenauer’s approach.

From the 04.08.11 Portland Business Journal
“Performance-Based Regulatory Systems Cut Costs”
Congressman Earl Blumenauer

As businesses and industries in Oregon continue to climb out of the recession, one of the greatest opportunities for bipartisan cooperation and innovation is how we regulate.

While President Obama’s executive order reviewing federal regulations produced the predictable result — a debate whether anything would change versus whether it signified the administration’s willingness to undermine regulatory protections — this is a critical issue and an opportunity that should not be lost for the president, Congress or the American public.

We want regulations to protect the environment, the workplace and the safety of our food and children’s toys. But the regulatory process can be cumbersome and at times appears to be a captive of bureaucratic overreaction.

Our system of government with power shared between federal, state and thousands of local agencies and municipalities allows overlapping processes to collide, creating confusion, inaction and expense. Too often regulations don’t work as well as they should and problems can become worse.

The discussion needs to go beyond deficiencies to the very nature of how we regulate. We can align private and public interests to produce a more efficient, less costly and more effective system with regulations that are performance-based, that actually provide the protections and solve problems using market-based solutions.

We’ve done this before. In the 1990s, I was part of a process where Intel was given flexibility to meet air quality standards for a significant plant expansion in Oregon. Without being micromanaged, the company met the government’s environmental goals and completed a project important for the local economy and Intel’s global competitiveness.

More recently, the city of Philadelphia has been negotiating for several years with the EPA to meet its obligation to clean up discharges into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and other local waterways. It has a plan that would be cheaper and environmentally friendly by utilizing more restoration and less concrete.

It would put people to work overnight and dramatically improve water quality. Figuring out a way to allow Philadelphia to proceed while being held fully accountable could serve as a template for over 1,000 American communities facing similar problems.

In Oregon, we need to look no further than the city of Portland’s Water Bureau and its attempts to comply with EPA’s cryptosporidium regulation. The Bull Run Watershed is one of the most protected drinking watersheds in the United States. Frequent testing several times a week by the city over 2010 has turned up no occurrences of cryptosporidium microbes.

The cost of building a water treatment plant to meet new EPA standards would drive up some of the nation’s highest combined water and sewer rates. A variance would allow the city to meet the standard by continuing to monitor water quality while saving nearly $500 million in ratepayer dollars. EPA recently delegated the decision to the State Department of Human Services.

As long as Portland continues to meet the performance standards, the variance should be granted.

With enforceable performance standards that focus on results rather than specific details, we will save time, energy and taxpayer dollars. It’s something for which everybody can claim credit and everyone — businesses, environmentalists, consumers and workers — will be better off.

Read more: Performance-based regulatory systems cut costs | Portland Business Journal