I have owned and operated an oyster farm on the coast of Maine for 32 years. Each year, we raise more than 100 million seed oysters, which we supply to other growers across the Eastern Seaboard, along with fully grown oysters we sell here in Maine and throughout the United States.

It’s been a rewarding journey — not everyone is lucky enough to spend their career working out on the Damariscotta River, or taste the fruits of their labor on the half shell. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. Over the years, we’ve faced hurdles — just as any business has. But now we face a new challenge: a bill in Congress that disguises itself as regulatory reform.

I know, firsthand, the frustration of complying with poorly conceived and executed rules and regulations. Yet I also can say, unequivocally, that without environmental regulations, my company would not be successful today and would very likely have gone out of business years ago. Let’s be clear about the goals that should guide our elected leaders who enact laws and the government agencies that carry them out: to maintain and promote a strong economy while protecting public health and ensuring a clean environment. The Regulatory Accountability Act, currently making its way through Congress, seriously misses the mark on creating a framework in which all businesses can thrive.

My business is wholly dependent on clean coastal waters. In 1998, I was nearly put out of business by a septic tank pumper illegally emptying his truck 150 yards from our hatchery intake pipe. But many factors — sometimes from distant sources — can seriously affect the productivity of the ocean ecosystem I rely on.

For example, carbon emissions are causing acid levels in our coastal waters to increase as more CO2 dissolves in the water and freshwater runoff increases. Warming ocean temperatures are linked to the rise of pathogenic bacteria that can kill our oysters or make people sick. For us to avoid these threats and continue providing safe, healthy seafood to consumers, we must have clear, common-sense regulatory limits on pollution — period.

I believe that Congress could pursue regulatory reform that provides targeted fixes to the process — like bringing all stakeholders to the table earlier in the process and creating a schedule for reviewing rules at regular intervals. But the Regulatory Accountability Act is not the answer. Under the guise of regulatory reform, this proposal would add a new litany of bureaucratic hurdles, making it even harder for businesses like ours to navigate the already complex regulatory system.


Only in Washington would politicians try to solve the problem of slow bureaucracy with more bureaucracy. Yet that is exactly what the Regulatory Accountability Act proposes. The legislation imposes dozens of new procedural requirements; requires far-reaching, complex new analyses; sets in motion trial-like, formal hearing requirements; provides new avenues to petition for hearings; and includes many new legal avenues for court challenges.

And, potentially most importantly, it focuses only on the potential costs of regulations, and does not adequately balance those against benefits. This means that the benefit I provide to the local economy and our food supply will not be appropriately considered when calculating the cost of compliance for practices by other businesses that affect my operation. Rather than streamlining the process and providing for more regulatory certainty and accountability, the Regulatory Accountability Act will bring the regulatory process to a halt.

We’ve been harvesting oysters for over 30 years, and I hope we can do the same for decades to come. But to do so, we need a federal government capable of ensuring clean waters, setting responsible limits on pollution and providing a predictable business environment. In Maine, the aquaculture industry is growing rapidly, creating good jobs and diversifying Maine’s marine economy. The Regulatory Accountability Act would take Maine, and our nation, in the wrong direction.

I hope Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King oppose this misguided legislation. If it passes, Wall Street firms and D.C. lobbyists might be thrilled, but small businesses like ours and Maine consumers will pay the price.

Bill Mook is the owner of Mook Sea Farm in Walpole and a friend of the American Sustainable Business Council.

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