U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, a Johnston County Republican, says federal rules and regulations “are just stifling this economy,” and the final Waters of the United States rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could be devastating for North Carolina.

Nearly his entire 7th Congressional District “will in essence become classified as a wetland” under jurisdiction of the EPA if the courts don’t reverse the law, said Rouzer.

“Imagine what that means in terms of permitting, what that means in terms of extra costs,” the freshman congressman said Nov. 12 at Americans for Prosperity North Carolina’s Free the Grid Tour event in Wilmington.

The EPA rule “will have very dire consequences” for the homebuilding industry, construction at large, and especially agriculture, Rouzer said. “That’s a significant proportion of the economy not only here in the 7th District, but also in the state of North Carolina.”

While most Americans are aware of Obamacare, and its costly rules and regulations, Rouzer said, attention needs to be paid to the EPA because of the impact its “idiotic rules” and regulatory overreach are having on the economy.

“The EPA alone, since this president took office, has issued more than 3,100 new final regulations,” Rouzer said of the Obama administration’s pattern of issuing regulations when Congress has not passed legislation the president prefers.

“I’ve co-sponsored legislation to repeal the Waters of the USA rule,” he said. “If we could just repeal every rule and regulation that this administration has put into place in the last seven years that would do more for the economy than anything I know of.”

He noted that employment levels today are similar to those of the stagnant period of the late 1970s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ October jobs report, only 62.4 percent of the U.S. labor force was employed.

“That is an indictment all unto itself,” Rouzer said.

The number of U.S. businesses closing their doors has exceeded the number of startup businesses, he said. A Gallup report earlier this year said that trend has existed for the past eight years.

“And the reason why is we’ve created a climate in this country that is not conducive to the investment of capital,” passed piles of rules and regulations, and have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, Rouzer said.

That is why large businesses, weary of fighting the government, give in to ever more federal regulation, then work to manipulate it to their benefit, he said.

“The consequence of that is they basically use the government to help secure their market share and shield themselves from competitors,” Rouzer said. “And that’s in large part why the big guys get bigger and the small guys are going out of business.”

A vibrant economy requires getting rid of “these stupid rules and regulations that are making it so difficult on our small business owners and entrepreneurs, level the playing field for everybody, have a sound energy policy, have a sound agriculture policy, and have good infrastructure,” Rouzer said.

Noting that the price of energy is transferred to every product and most services through the economy, Rouzer said a sound energy policy would lower electricity costs. That would be key to jolting the economy into higher productivity, and reducing the $18 trillion national debt.

Yet the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is designed to force a reduction in use of the least expensive fuel sources, especially coal, at an enormous cost to the states and the economy, he said.

Even residential wood stoves are in the EPA’s crosshairs, Rouzer said. A constituent in Wayne County who manufactures wood heaters alerted him to a new EPA rule affecting those appliances.

“In essence, they’re trying to make it so much more costly to manufacture a wood heater that it prices it out of the marketplace,” Rouzer said.

“Energy sector expenditures are going to go up” under the Clean Power Plan, said Donald Bryson, state director of AFPNC.

On average, a North Carolina residential energy bill would be $434 higher by 2020, representing a 22 percent rate hike, Bryson said, affecting low-income people most severely.

A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy of the Clean Power Plan concluded that one-fifth of job losses nationally — 59,700 — will be in the South-Atlantic region, which includes North Carolina.

By a bipartisan vote Nov. 17, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution opposing the Clean Power Plan.

“This vote sends a clear signal to the international community that the American people will not stand in support for an agreement that would result in double-digit electricity [price increases] in 40 states, put hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and have no meaningful impact on global warming,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.

The EPA rule would cost $292 billion and reduce American household disposable income by roughly $79 billion, Inhofe said in news release.

“In this country, it is Congress who writes the laws, not EPA,” Inhofe said, noting 27 states, 24 national trade associations, and 37 rural electric cooperatives are among those challenging the final rule in court.

Dan Way (@danway_carolina) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.