Thousands of Potential New Regulations Have CEOs Concerned

The federal government plans to pile on thousands of new or tightened regulations in the next few months, and many business chiefs are concerned that this could retard economic growth once again.

In fact, when CEOs in the latest quarterly survey by The Business Roundtable were asked to identify the two most significant factors holding back increased U.S. investment spending, “regulatory issues” was the second-most mentioned impediment, with 46% of business chiefs (given two choices each) fingering that problem, while 63% were concerned about “U.S. tax policy.” In third place was “weak global demand,” mentioned by 38%.

“46% of business chiefs feel ‘regulatory issues’ is the number one challenge holding back their investment spending.”

In its latest semi-annual “unified” regulatory agenda filed right before Thanksgiving, the Obama administration included some 3,415 new or revised regulations—more than in the last agenda, including 189 rules whose implementation will each cost businesses more than $100 million.

They include a rule that is likely to be one of the most fought-over next year: the agency’s redefinition of “navigable” and “adjacent” waters covered under the Clean Water Act. The new submitted definition includes any piece of property connected to lands of the United States that has water overflow at any point of the year. That includes seasonal streams, ponds, ditches, depressions in fields and even large puddles.

The EPA says it only seeks to smooth out jurisdictional uncertainties in the wake of two recent Supreme Court rulings. But many CEOs and other business opponents see yet another aggressive attempt at government expansion that would prevent many companies and other landowners from excavating or filling in land without a permit that would have to be gained through an extremely long process.

“Besides the power grab, there’s the issue of real uncertainty whether the features of your land would make it considered navigable or adjacent waters, and that can create huge difficulties if you want to sell it,” Dan Bosch, manager of regulatory policy for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, told CEO Briefing.

Even CEOs of high-tech companies are expressing alarm at some likely new attempts at regulatory extension. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to propose rules for commercial drones next month that would mandate operators to have pilot licenses and limit drone flights to daytime hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, The Wall Street Journal reported.

This might crimp Amazon, Google and other companies experimenting with drones by increasing the costs and eroding the value of operating drones, particularly small ones, and effectively prohibit some commercial applications such as pipeline inspections, large-scale crop monitoring, and e-commerce deliveries, the newspaper said.


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