David Roitman: Review of state regulations OK, but not if needed rules are weakened

Last modified: Monday, July 27, 2015

To the editor:

On July 22, the Gazette reported Northampton City Council approval of the Chemiplastica storage tank at 238 Nonotuck St. in Florence. My wife and I recently walked by the plant during a lovely evening stroll and the article caught our eye. I’d like to highlight one point in your report.

The reporter quoted City Councilor Ryan O’Donnell saying he was “troubled by the state’s move toward relaxed regulations under Gov. Baker.” O’Donnell went on to say he remembered the recent West Virginia chemical spill and this need for a new license for Chemiplastica “presented a rare opportunity to apply stricter standards to a legacy manufacturing plant … constructed during an era of more lax views toward industry.”

The “move toward relaxed regulations” refers to Gov. Charlie Baker’s Executive Order 562, easy to find on the Internet. Much of this order appears reasonable. It begins with provisions to ensure “newly proposed regulations are measured for their potential impact on businesses … and the Secretary of Administration and Finance will establish a process for encouraging public input, standards and schedules.”

However, the order changes tone when it states that “only those regulations which are mandated by law or essential to the health, safety, environment, or welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents shall be retained or modified.

In order to find that a regulation meets this standard, the government agency conducting the review must demonstrate that the costs of the regulation do not exceed the benefits [and] the regulation does not exceed federal requirements or duplicate local requirements.” In other times and places, this type of order has been used to weaken environmental regulations, resulting in significant economic damage and harm to residents living near industrial plants. So, dear reader, please pay attention to news reports about the way Executive Order 562 is implemented going forward. Will it be used to improve our regulatory climate while preserving tough, needed regulations; or, will it be used to weaken them?

As Ronald Reagan rightly said, “trust, but verify.”

David Roitman



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