By Matt Tomsic
Published Nov. 9, 2011
Rep. Tim Scott zipped around the Lowcountry on Tuesday, touring four businesses that he said are examples of the effects of regulatory overreach.
Scott, R-S.C., and his entourage started the tour in front of home under construction in The Ponds development in Summerville, its framing nearly complete. There, he and others spoke about the Dodd-Frank financial reform act’s impact on lending to developers and potential homeowners.
The tour continued to Bulldog Hiway Express in North Charleston and on to Blue Flame Gas Co. and Geechie Seafood in Mount Pleasant. At each stop, Scott highlighted existing or proposed federal regulations that impacted each industry.
The tour highlighted “overreactions” by federal regulators who Scott said should use common sense to study environmental and economic impacts of new regulations. The government needs to create jobs and protect the environment at the same time; the decision shouldn’t be one versus the other, he said.
Scott said the Federal Register, which details federal regulations, has grown to about 60,000 pages, and businesses spend $70 billion a year on regulatory compliance.
The government needs a limited amount of regulations to set the playing field, Scott said, but in recent years, the country has gone from inching to leaping to new regulations.
During the first stop at The Ponds, Scott said, “This really gives us a bird’s-eye view of reality. Each layer of the American dream is being infected by government regulations.”
Scott said new mortgage requirements being considered would have disqualified 86% of homebuyers in 2010. Congress is considering requiring a 20% down payment and cleaner credit history than before, among other requirements.
Jeff Meyer, president of the Charleston Trident Home Builders Association, said builders are struggling to get acquisition, development and construction loans because of regulations on the percentage of loans a bank can give the real estate industry.
Meyer said 25 banks denied him loans when he started his building company, and he took money from his retirement plan and used a home equity line to get started.
“But I felt it was worth it,” he said.
Nearly 18 miles southeast of The Ponds, Scott stopped at Bulldog Hiway Express to talk about truckers’ hours of service. The Department of Transportation is considering lowering the hours of service from 11 hours to 10.
“The sound of the truck is the sound of profit,” Scott said as an 18-wheeler bellowed by.
Scott said the new regulation comes in spite of a 40% reduction in serious accidents and fatalities involving truckers.
Trucking industry professionals said the cut in hours would reduce truckers’ salaries and add costs to consumers because it would slow supply chains.
“Trucking is everybody’s business,” said Rick Todd, president of the S.C. Trucking Association. “Everything we use comes all or part of the way on a truck.”
Jerry Peterson, Bulldog’s director of safety and training, said most trucks travel 65 miles in an hour, so the reduction in hours of service could cut 10 times that distance each day for large trucking fleets.
Peterson said the missing hour would turn one-day, short-haul trips into two-day trips for Bulldog’s drivers. Some of the company’s runs are that close, he said, and if they lose the 11th hour, drivers could become stranded about 60 miles from their destination on the return trip. Peterson said he and other safety officers have their commercial driver’s licenses so that they could meet a trucker and drive the rig the last 60 miles, but he said not all companies can do that.
“The question is: Are we dealing with facts?” Scott said. “Or are we dealing with perspective?”
Nearly 14 miles east of Bulldog, Scott addressed the Department of Energy’s proposed rule to treat indirect sources of heat — gas log fireplaces — like direct sources of heat, or HVAC systems.
“We are at a scary site,” Scott said at Blue Flame Gas Co. in Mount Pleasant.
Corky Clark, executive director of the S.C. Propane Gas Association, said the 1975 law that gave the Energy Department authority over heating sources omitted indirect sources of heat, like the gas logs sold at Blue Flame. Clark said gas logs would have to meet the same energy efficiency standards of HVAC systems if the rule is passed.
Scott and Clark said the rule would cost gas log owners thousands of dollars in compliance fees and could force gas companies to stop selling products that don’t meet the energy efficiency requirements.
About 6 miles south, Scott and anglers talked about federal catch limits as another example of a regulation that doesn’t make sense.
“And it’s based on inconclusive data,” Scott said.
Keith Logan, a charter boat captain, said he lost more than 30 charters — costing him more than $9,000 — because the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council closed black sea bass fisheries, a fish popular with charters.
“If they can’t catch the fish, they’re not going to go,” Logan said. “We are the endangered species.”
Logan and others criticized the data — described as outdated — used to close the fisheries and criticized the law as a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t consider conditions in each region.
Scott ended his tour at Geechie Seafood. He said he wasn’t advocating for no regulations, but he said the government should use common sense and good science in its regulations.
The tour, Scott said, was about shining a bright light on overregulation and asking the government to step back so the American people could step forward.
Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.