The Relief Report ®

A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research

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Issue #92 * March 28, 2001 * David A. Ridenour, Editor


Environmental Regulations Contribute to Airline Delays

No Justification for Yet Another Postal Rate Increase

Bush's Decision to Not Regulate Carbon Dioxide is a Victory for Consumers


Environmental Regulations Contribute to Airline Delays

Overly restrictive environmental regulations are significantly contributing to airline delays and cancellations by inhibiting the timely construction of much-needed runways, according to a new National Policy Analysis paper by the National Center For Public Policy Research.

According to National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis paper #331, "Mad About the Quality of Air Travel These Days? Blame Environmentalists," environmental regulations are a major reason why, since 1978, only two new major metropolitan airports have been constructed although the number of passengers flying annually rose from 250 million in 1978 to 600 million in 1999. Airline departures increased 25 percent during the 1990s but only six new runways were added at large hub airports during the same period.

Runways are as important to relieving air travel congestion as highways are to reducing auto traffic. But it often takes 10 years or more to plan and build a new runway, primarily because of cumbersome environmental permitting requirements. Although it only takes two years to actually construct a major runway, before commencing construction airport authorities must first meet time-consuming environmental regulations mandated by often duplicative federal and state laws governing air and water quality, endangered species, historical preservation, noise abatement, solid waste impacts, coastal zone management and other environmental concerns.

The efficiency and comfort that customers rightly expect from air travel is seriously eroding as a result of so many jets competing for a limited amount of runway space and gates. Between 1995 and 2000, airline cancellations jumped 104 percent while departure and arrival delays increased 33 percent. Customer complaints are on the rise. Last year, the number of complaints, mainly about cancellations, delays and missed connections, increased 14 percent compared with 1999. If the environmental permitting process is not streamlined soon to expedite new airport and runway construction, consumer dissatisfaction with airline travel will only get worse. The number of airline passengers is projected to increase 60 percent to 1 billion in 2010.

"Building airports and runways is not just a matter of passenger convenience," says John Carlisle, director of the Environmental Policy Task Force and the author of the paper. "It is a matter of passenger safety. Clearly, if air space continues to get more crowded, that creates the conditions for serious accidents to occur. Fortunately, the Bush Administration recognizes this. New Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta favors streamlining the environmental permitting process to expedite runway construction."

No Justification for Yet Another Postal Rate Increase

The U.S. Postal Service's consideration of yet another increase in the cost of first class mail and bulk mail, following the rate increases that took effect in January, is indefensible in light of the Postal Service's mismanagement, a bloated payroll and more than a billion dollars lost each year due to waste, fraud and abuse.

In January, the price of first-class mail rose from 33 cents to 34 cents while the price for bulk rate mail increased by 9.9 percent. Now, the Postal Service may want another increase this year. The Postal Service is paying insufficient attention to reports by the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Post Office Inspector General that cite unacceptable waste and poor management practices that, if corrected, would help hold down the cost of mail delivery.

According to the GAO, the Postal Service loses at least $1.4 billion annually in waste, fraud and abuse. In testimony to Congress last year, the Postal Service Inspector General said that the Postal Service needed to increase management controls in order to keep costs in line. The Inspector General cited mismanagement in contract administration, inadequate budget planning and ineffective program oversight resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars lost to fraud and mismanagement.

In addition, the Postal Service's productivity is less than stellar. From 1990 to 1998, Postal Service productivity decreased by 0.6 percent compared to a 7 percent increase for private nonfarm productivity and a 13.9 percent increase for manufacturing productivity. At comparable productivity growth rates, the Postal Service would have saved as much as $8 billion in costs.

"The Postal Service just can't assume that it will be allowed to continue to ignore these glaring inefficiencies," says John Carlisle, who heads regulatory programs for The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Since 1962, the price of a first class stamp has risen by 725 percent. Even with the recent hike in energy prices, gasoline has risen by less than 500 percent. Clearly, it's time to tell the Post Office to clean up its inefficiencies and stop making consumers bail it out."

Bush's Decision to Not Regulate Carbon Dioxide is a Victory for Consumers

President George W. Bush's decision to not support carbon dioxide regulation, the greenhouse gas alleged to cause dangerous global warming, should be applauded as a victory for America consumers and a victory for sound science.

During the presidential race, then-Governor Bush stated that he would seek to "establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mecury and carbon dioxide." In addition, there are several bills before Congress that authorize caps on carbon dioxide emissions.

However, the most reliable scientific evidence lends no credence to environmentalist warnings that rising carbon dioxide emissions from cars, power plants and other sources is causing discernible global warming. NASA weather satellites, the most accurate barometers of global temperature, show that the Earth slightly cooled since 1979. Furthermore, one of the leading scientists promoting the global warming theory, Dr. James Hansen, says he now sees no evidence that carbon dioxide is responsible for any global warming. Absent proof that it causes dangerous warming, carbon dioxide is simply a benign, non-polluting substance that plants need to grow.

In addition to the considerable scientific uncertainty concerning man-made warming, carbon dioxide regulation runs completely counter to the President's promise to the American people to promote access to affordable energy. A study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that carbon dioxide regulation would add about $90 billion to the nation's electrical generating costs -- with the consumer ultimately picking up the tab. If President Bush had decided to regulate CO2, electricity prices would have increased as much as 43% in 2010, with the average household having to divert an extra $200 from health care, housing and other vital necessities to pay the electric bill each year.

Keeping his promise to lower Americans' energy bills, President Bush rightly decided to not support costly proposals to regulate carbon dioxide. In a letter to concerned U.S. Senators, the President said that "including caps on carbon dioxide emissions... would lead to... significantly higher energy prices [and] we must be very careful not to take actions that could harm consumers."

"President Bush understands the vital importance of energy to America's economy and its importance to the everyday lives of the American people," says John Carlisle, director of the National Center's Environmental Policy Task Force. "Americans voted for George W. Bush, in part, because they strongly supported his arguments that the government must do more to promote domestic energy development to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil and contain energy prices. Regulating carbon dioxide threatened to negate the President's laudable energy program and break an important promise to the American people."

Editorial correspondence to The Relief Report should be directed to: The National Center for Public Policy Research * 20 F Street NW, Suite 700 * Washington, D.C. 20001 * (202) 507-6398 * Fax (301) 498-1301 * E-mail [email protected] * Web Copyright 2001, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Coverage of meetings, activities or statements in the Relief Report does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of material in the Relief Report permitted provided source is credited. To receive all National Center newsletters free by e-mail, visit or send an e-mail to: mailing [email protected].

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