At year end, it’s important to reflect on what has happened in the recent past and how future adjustments might affect the future. As the title indicates, we will be reflecting on new and upcoming regulations. Why? Because regulations are a part of the reason we are stuck at 9% unemployment and why business leaders are so uncertain of our economic future and unwilling to invest in it to create jobs.

Hard to believe another year is coming to an end. For readers who have been with us for a few years, you may be expecting my typical reflective editorial for the holiday season. If so, it came a few months early this year, and you should check out September’s H.E.L.P.

At year end, it’s also important to reflect on what has happened in the recent past and how future adjustments might affect the future. As the title indicates, we will be reflecting on new and upcoming regulations. Why? Because regulations are a part of the reason we are stuck at 9% unemployment and why business leaders are so uncertain of our economic future and unwilling to invest in it to create jobs. It’s a vicious circle.

This vicious circle has consequences, as explained by Cynthia Magnuson of the National Federation of Independent Business. She indicated that Washington’s recent policies have worsened the three top concerns among employers: healthcare costs, corporate tax complexity and increased government regulations. Another business leader suggested that we “need to drain the regulatory swamp.”

Over the past three years, that swamp has gotten deeper. There are currently more than 4,200 proposed federal rules awaiting approval. Those that impact small businesses have increased more than 11% since 2009. The rule maker hurting job creators the most – and likely to have the greatest impact in our industry – is the EPA. They are currently considering hundreds of regulations. To see the regulation shift over the past decade, use the Mobile Tag at the end of the article or go to www.industrialheating.com/regs.

By the EPA’s own estimates, new greenhouse gas (GHG) permits are expected to cost $125,000 and 866 hours per facility seeking compliance! R. Bruce Josten with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce described the proposed EPA rules as “the most costly, burdensome, expansive set of job-killing regulations ever crafted.”

Even if the EPA regulations don’t directly affect our facilities, we will still feel the impact in the form of increased electricity costs. An example of this is American Electric Power (AEP), which has increased its rates 48-88% in the last few years. AEP rates are expected to increase another 10-35% in the next three years due to environmental regulations that are expected to cost the company $8 billion in compliance and upgrades.

Here in western Pennsylvania, the energy sector is adding significantly to our local economy. A recent story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review indicated that the energy industry accounted for one-sixth of all economic activity and 150,000 jobs at 750 employers. In a 10-county region, energy-related industries generated $19 billion in economic activity. My personal concern is that proposed regulations will hurt the energy sector, reducing jobs and hurting our local economy.

I’m not alone in my concern. Ed Yankovich, the international vice president District 2 of the United Mineworkers of America, recently wrote an editorial entitled, “EPA’s new rules spell economic disaster.” In it, he likens the EPA’s rules related to coal-fired power plants to “forcing an automobile manufacturer to build a vehicle that seats 10, goes 200 mph and gets 60 miles on a gallon of gasoline. It can’t all be accomplished currently in a single design.”

Yankovich went on to quote a National Economic Research Association analysis that estimates that “just two of EPA’s new rules will cost Pennsylvania 59,000 jobs over the next nine years. The NERA’s analysis also showed that these two EPA rules will drive up electricity costs 13-17% across Pennsylvania.”

The other regulations and “controls” to keep an eye on are what is happening to individual businesses. Boeing is one that comes to mind. Being expansion limited in Washington state, Boeing decided to open a new plant – as some of you might have done – to increase capacity (and employment). The administration, through the NLRB, is challenging Boeing’s right to do this. In our opinion, the NLRB cannot be allowed to win this fight, which officially began June 14 and may not be concluded before next summer. If they win, American and foreign companies – think Honda or Severstal – will be discouraged from expanding in other states. Flexibility to move operations (within the U.S.) will be seriously reduced. Why is our government fighting Boeing?

If you think Boeing is an exception and it doesn’t happen to smaller companies, I’d urge you to read about the “attack” on Gibson Guitars. Was this government raid justified? Why was Gibson targeted?

The bottom line is that proposed regulations will likely increase our costs and negatively affect the way we do business in the future. How is that good for our industry or our economy? What can be done about it? Consider these questions as we roll into an election year in 2012.

In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday season with friends and family! IH