Designed to fail: why regulatory agencies don’t work

Those of you who have been in the trenches might find this article about the failure of regulatory agencies interesting. Below are some excerpts from the article by William Sanjour. Read the comments, too.

• Regulatory agencies captured by the industries they regulate are worse than no regulation at all since capture gives industry the power of government.

• From my own experience with the U.S. EPA, even if an inspector finds a violation, this only triggers a lengthy complex process with many levels of warning, review, appeal, negotiation, and adjudication before any action is taken (or, more often, avoided).

• When I was writing regulations, I was told on more than one occasion to make sure I put in enough loopholes.

• The people who get ahead are those clever ones with a talent for procrastination, obfuscation, and coming up with superficially plausible reasons for accomplishing nothing.

William Sanjour retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 after 30 years, most of it spent in regulations. He has written and published articles about why regulatory agencies don’t work and what can be done about it. He has have been invited to testify at numerous Congressional hearings and at state legislatures and citizens groups around the country as well. He presently sits on the Board of Directors of the National Whistleblowers Center. This article and others can be found on the Web at

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