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According to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “The published regulatory burden for 2012 [alone] could exceed $105 billion.... Since January 1st, the federal government has imposed $56.6 billion in compliance costs and more than 114 million annual paperwork burden hours.”
Ask Jones about paperwork. Buckingham Slate is overseen by an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies, and “each one of them wants something from us all the time that is costing us money”—spill-prevention plans that require hiring an engineer; pre-shift inspections; dust monitoring; and more. Jones estimates that five of his 45 employees spend 20 percent of their time simply filling out paperwork.
Of course we need regulation. It helps keep our food safe to eat and our air safe to breathe. Companies shouldn’t be able to shift the costs of production onto the public by dumping pollutants into the environment. Everybody agrees with that. The real question is: At what point does regulation go too far?
“If you're a small operator, they’re just putting you out of business,” says Jones. “It doesn't matter that we can compete globally.... Sooner or later, that kind of regulation is going to shut you down.”