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Businesses' Hit List: The Regulations They Hate The Most

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NEW YORK -- Here is the hit list so far of America's most-hated federal regulations and rules, according to leading industry groups and conservative think tanks.

Ever since new House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent letters in December to 150 groups requesting their suggestions of federal regulations that are most harmful to their business, the responses have been pouring in.

The Huffington Post has reviewed 40 letters from over 160 groups, representing the full spectrum of the nation's industries, from the American Chemistry Council and American Hospital Association to the National Council of Textile Organizations and the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. (Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has obtained and posted 33 of the letters.)

Most of the complaints in the letters cite proposed rules and regulations and only a few name rules that are already on the books. As expected, industry groups tend to tailor their concerns to very specific regulations that impact their narrow slice of the world while think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute take wide aim at everything from Dodd-Frank Act financial rules and health care reform to the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Amid criticism by labor activists that the Obama administration is trying too hard to please the business community, some of the concerns expressed in the letters have already been addressed.

Two of the least popular regulations are proposals that were withdrawn by the Obama administration in the last two weeks under intense industry pressure -- one would have strengthened workplace noise standards and the other would have required employers to record their worker's musculoskeletal disorders in a separate column on injury and illness logs. The proposed noise standard was cited in 15 letters and the musculoskeletal rule was cited in seven letters.

Another proposal that seems limited in scope -- to limit harmful emissions from boilers -- attracted far more critics (16) than just the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners. The rule has been under attack by a coalition of lawmakers and industry groups who perceive it to be the leading edge of upcoming climate change regulations that they claim will burden them with costs. After receiving thousands of comments on the rule and amid industry pressure, the EPA requested more time to issue the final rule but a court recently ordered it to issue the rule this month.

Almost half of the letters viewed by HuffPost complain about proposals to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and to strengthen the nation's ambient air quality standard.

Many of the concerns are narrowly tailored to industry-specific rules -- the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is concerned about proposed regulations on rearward visibility in vehicles, the American Coatings Association complains that the list of compounds allowable in aerosol paint is too small, and the International Sleep Products Association complains that a cigarette test standard for flammability of mattresses is outdated.

Some of the letters actually suggest proposals or praise existing ones. The Motor and Equipment Manufacturer Association lauds National Highway Transportation Safety Administration rules that update the stopping distance requirements for heavy-duty vehicles. And the National Council of Textile Organizations requests more funding for Customs and Border Protection so the agency can hire more enforcement agents to crack down on fraud in the industry.

Several letters come from a coalition of groups united around an issue. The Government Withholding Relief Coalition of over 100 groups, from the Aerospace Industries Association to the Distilled Spirits Council of America, complain about an Internal Revenue Service proposal to require federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of nearly all their contractor payments, Medicare payments and farm payments.

Rep. Issa has said he will release the responses on Feb. 11, much to the consternation of the committee's top Democrat, Elijah Cummings (Md.), who has complained about his inability to view them. To see a list of the groups contacted by Issa, most of which have not responded to CREW's request for their responses, check out CREW's site.

Asked for comment on the responses he's received so far, Issa emailed the following statement to HuffPost:

"For more than two years, we have been hearing anecdotal examples from job creators about how government regulations impede the type of permanent, private-sector job creation necessary to successfully lower unemployment. This was an opportunity for private industry to put forward detailed and specific examples so both the American people and policymakers can determine for themselves what actions can be taken to foster robust and lasting job creation. Hopefully, at the conclusion of this effort, both the President and lawmakers on each end of Capitol Hill will be able to use this broad input on regulatory barriers to job creation to make informed decisions about the best path forward for our economy."

Check out my new blog devoted to regulatory agencies, "The Watchdog"

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