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The Free Market Memo

Prosperity is Possible Only if We Can Ease the Regulatory Burden of Bidenomics

The Senate should take up and pass the REINS Act, which would require Congress to review regulations with over $100 million in impact.

By Jesse Ramos

Prosperity is possible for Montana, but the current policies out of Washington won’t get us there. Montana needs its politicians, and especially Sen.  Jon Tester, to stop toeing the party line and instead pass legislation that will allow Montana’s economy to thrive for all — starting with our essential energy sector.

If you’re feeling the crunch of rising prices, you’re not alone. Not only has inflation been the highest it’s been in three decades, but within the United States that inflation has been the highest in the Mountain West. And one of the biggest culprits is policy blunders coming out of Washington, championed by President Joe Biden and supported by Sen. Tester.

The American Rescue Plan, for example, became law at the beginning of President Biden’s term, and the unnecessary trillions that it pumped into the economy triggered the inflationary crisis that we’re only now starting to see tamed.

Inflation puts dreams on hold. Those higher prices mean less money for your retirement, for your kid’s college savings account, or for that home renovation you’ve been saving for.

But the macroeconomic policies aren’t the only reason we end up paying more. Montanans are the 14th largest user of energy per capita in the country, and unwise energy policies drive up our bills as well and have been for years.

The loss of the Keystone XL pipeline is one example of how Washington political priorities have hurt our state. On top of creating thousands of jobs in Montana, that pipeline would have increased the flow of energy into our country, ultimately lowering our energy bills.

Canceling the Keystone XL is only a more prominent instance of the many executive fiats coming out of the executive branch. For many of us, the impact of these regulations hits much closer to home.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new mercury emissions standards that affect exactly one coal plant in the United States: Montana’s Colstrip Steam Electric Station. This power station not only provides power for many Montanans, but also for much of the Pacific northwest. And if these regulations go through, the Colstrip plant could be forced to close much earlier than expected, eliminating jobs, destabilizing Montana’s on-demand power-supply, and driving up our energy bills by millions of dollars.

Executive regulations like these are democratically unaccountable and immensely costly. Since the start of 2021, there have been 74 regulations finalized, at a total cost to our country of over $260 billion and requiring well over 2.5 million hours of paperwork.

That’s why the Senate should take up and pass the REINS Act, which would require Congress to review regulations with over $100 million in impact. Doing so would not only force Congress to take back up its constitutional responsibility to legislate but would also require our representatives to go on the record stating their support or opposition to the harmful policies coming out of Washington.

The reality is that we can have a robust debate over the prudence of continuing to use coal plants to supply our power, but these discussions should not be artificially truncated by democratically unaccountable decisions emerging from Washington. Not only should Montanans have a say, but any transition should be done in a way that preserves our ability to heat and cool our homes without breaking the bank.

That’s why, in addition to the REINS Act, the Senate should also take up and pass the Lower Energy Costs Act, also called H.R. 1. This bill would allow Montanans and Americans across the country to develop more energy resources, tapping the immense reserves and ingenuity of this country. The result would be not only greater energy security for us, but lower prices and more jobs.

The problem is that H.R. 1 is languishing at the threshold of the Senate after the House passed it earlier this year. Senators, including our own Jon Tester, would rather hide behind the aggressive actions of the executive branch than vote to bring down energy prices.

Prosperity is possible for Montana, but we have to change course. Washington must stop imposing regulations that ignore democratic accountability and market realities, and instead must trust the American people to make the best decisions—about their energy use, and every other area of their lives.

Prosperity is possible, but only when we empower Americans.

Jesse Ramos is a former Missoula City Councilman and the state director for Americans for Prosperity-Montana.

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