Nevada and Oklahoma Fight Back Against EPA Clean Power Plan
From concerns about cost, economic impact and lost jobs to being simply fettered by the simple illogicality of trying to make such a huge change with so many far-reaching detriments and so few visible or even guaranteed detriments, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan has run into no shortage of problems since its introduction last year. The plan proposes a 30% nationwide reduction in CO2 by way of building renewable energy, making coal power plants more efficient, switching from coal to natural gas, and reducing end-user electricity consumption. The idea might sound nice, but more and more states are waking up to the very unpleasant reality of the enormous costs, lost jobs and sky-high energy prices that would result from implementing the CPP.
As the deadline for submitting their plans for the EPA’s approval draws closer (if a state doesn’t submit a plan, the EPA will of course force one on them) more states realize what the Clean Power Plan will mean for them. This realization has led many states to draft their own legislation to protect their citizens from the EPA's consequences. Both Nevada and Oklahoma have introduced bills (set to be marked up tomorrow) which aim to do exactly that.
Nevada has introduced S.B 438, which would put some extensive ground rules in place for the creation and implementation of a State Implemented Plan (SIP). One requirement would be an extensive and widely, meticulously distributed report on the proposed SIP’s effects on energy prices, employment, economic development, economic competition in relation to other states, any potential disproportionate effects on low-to-middle income consumers, and any new legislation that would need to be written and enacted in order to put the SIP into effect.
At the same time, Oklahoma is introducing S.B 676, a bill which recognizes the results of multiple studies that show the CPP to be a threat to Oklahoma’s grid reliability. S.B 676 aims to lessen the extent of the EPA’s power grab by requiring a report on the costs of any implementation plan, similar to Nevada’s bill, and more importantly giving the Oklahoma legislature and Attorney General the authority to approve or disapprove of a plan.
While the EPA’s authority to impose the CPP on the states is fortunately being hotly debated in Washington, states must do everything possible to try to protect themselves. Hopefully, more states will take after Nevada and Oklahoma and introduce their own bills to make it more difficult for the EPA to unilaterally impose its draconian Clean Power Plan on their citizens.
Most Keystone Pipeline Oil Would Be Consumed in US
A new report by IHS finds that about 70% of oil from the Keystone Pipeline would remain in the US, in contrast with the left's perpetuated misunderstanding that most Keystone XL crude oil would be exported. In fact, it is currently illegal for the American companies to export crude oil, thanks to an arcane law. The report also highlights the impact of greenhouse gas from processing oil imported through the pipeline would be negligible, as the imported oil would be taking the place of, rather than being added to other imported crude oil with similar carbon intensity, such as from Venezuela. Overall, the report shows yet more solid evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would be a net benefit to the US in terms of jobs, low environmental impact, and reduced dependency on foreign oil.
But no good thing is without its detractors: Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) makes unambiguous claims that he believes most, if not all Keystone oil would be exported as part of an “Oil Industry Export Plan”. In a press release, Markey states:
“The Canadian Keystone export pipeline isn’t about helping Americans at the gas pump, it’s about pumping up profits for oil companies. This export pipeline would make the United States a middleman to ship Canadian oil to the thirstiest foreign markets abroad, where they can charge more for their oil while our country assumes all the environmental risk.”
Unfortunately for Markey, if you take advantage of widespread public misconceptions, you often find yourself eating crow.
New Government Study Gives Keystone the Green light
Yesterday the EPA released its review of the Department of State’s final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. The EPA’s comments were largely positive, which is saying something given the EPA’s recent partisan leanings.
The EPA makes note of how thoroughly the State Department’s final SEIS addresses their previously brought up concerns, stating that “The Final SEIS is comprehensive and provides responses to our April 2013 comments on the Draft SEIS. We would like to especially point out the usefulness of the new compilation of all of the proposed mitigation measures.”
In Keystone’s favor, the comments recognized that the State Department has put serious consideration into oil spill prevention, preparedness, cleanup, and mitigation of damage. It also confirms Keystone as being accountable should any spills occur, and responsible for cleanup. According to the EPA: “The Department has also strengthened the analysis of oil spill prevention preparedness, response and mitigation and has committed to requiring numerous mitigation measures regarding leak prevention and detection, as well as spill cleanup measures. While risks of oil spills and adverse impacts remain, and spills of diluted bitumen can have different impacts than spills of conventional oil, the Department has included provisions to reduce those risks, including working with the state of Nebraska to develop an alternative route that avoids much of the Sand Hills region, and incorporating mitigation measures recommended by both the Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Administration and the independent engineering analysis. We note as particularly important the commitment by Keystone to be responsible for clean-up and restoration of groundwater as well as surface water in the event of a release or discharge of crude oil. These efforts will decrease the risk of spills and leaks, and provide for necessary remediation should spills occur. Nonetheless, the Final SEIS acknowledged that the proposed pipeline does present a risk of spills, which remains a concern for citizens and businesses relying on groundwater resources crossed by the route.”
Also in favor of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the EPA makes note that the pipeline will result in fewer emissions than if Canadian crude is shipped by rail. “Based on that market analysis, the Final SETS concluded, in January of 2014, that if the Project were not approved, oil sands crude would be likely to reach the market some other way, most likely by rail. The Final SEIS acknowledged that the alternative of shipment by rail is more expensive than shipment by pipeline, and would therefore increase the costs of getting oil sands crude to market. 5 However, the Final SEIS concluded that given global oil prices projected at that time this difference in shipment costs would not affect development of oil sands, which would remain profitable even with the higher transportation costs of shipment by rail. Therefore, the Final SEIS concluded that although development of oil sands would lead to significant additional releases of greenhouse gasses, a decision not to grant the requested permit would likely not change that outcome, i.e., those significant greenhouse gas emissions would likely happen regardless of the decision on the proposed Project. This conclusion was based in large part on projections of the global price of oil."
The Keystone XL pipeline promises efficiency as well as 43,000 jobs for Americans in this currently unforgiving employment market. It’s high time for it to be approved.
The Grover Norquist Show: 3 Reasons Why Congress Doesn't Need to Raise the Gas Tax
This week, ATR’s Grover Norquist and Chris Prandoni discussed the potential gasoline tax hike, which congress has been considering as a solution to our rapidly draining Highway Trust Fund. Despite the fact that lower gas prices will save American families $550 per year, politicians are still talking about hiking the gas tax.
The current gas tax, which was intended to be a kind of “user fee” for the highway system, is anything but. Although slated to net the federal government between 35-40 billion dollars in this year alone, much of these gas tax dollars will go to unrelated services such as mass transit and rail. A higher gas tax would only mean more of the same. The Highway Trust Fund is also extensively used to fund mass transit projects rather than the highways for which it was intended and named, causing the fund to be slated to run dry by (link to previous ATR blog post about Highway Trust Fund running dry)
Prandoni also points out that some of the revenue generated from the gasoline tax goes toward an anachronistic and racist piece of legislation called Davis-Bacon, which was originally meant to keep African Americans out of the labor force, and now serves to make highway projects 22% more expensive due to requiring that higher wages be paid to the workers.
Between allowing for more offshore drilling, wiser spending of gas tax and Highway Trust Fund revenues, and allowing states to build and maintain their own highway systems, Norquist and Prandoni discuss several viable options for raising revenue without sticking it to the middle class with a gas tax hike. You can listen to their discussion in its entirety below:
Norquist And Gleason Point Out Pitfalls of Broadband Reclassification
The FCC is currently deliberating over whether it should reclassify broadband service as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, a move that would raise taxes for close to 90% of Americans, discourage innovation and investment in broadband infrastructure, and could make internet access prohibitively expensive for many of those who already struggle to afford it. ATR’s Grover Norquist and Patrick Gleason break down the costs for the average taxpayer in their Reuters piece:
Under this decision to reclassify broadband, Americans would face a host of new state and local taxes and fees that apply to public utilities. These new levies, according to the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), would total $15 billion annually. On average, consumers would pay an additional $67 for landline broadband, and $72 for mobile broadband each year, according to PPI’s calculations, with charges varying from state to state.
Not only would reclassification under Title II make internet access even more costly, Norquist and Gleason also point out the potential consequences for the economy as a whole, as well as the disincentives for investment and innovation that this New Deal-era regulation would impose.
The telecommunications industry has invested more than $1.2 trillion on broadband infrastructure since 1996. As a result, roughly 87 percent of Americans have access to broadband. It would be foolish for government to discourage the significant investment required to maintain, expand and improve this infrastructure by subjecting broadband to circa 1930s regulation. Subjecting Internet service providers to such onerous rules would depress innovation and penalize Web users. Not only would higher taxes and fees leave individuals, families, and employers with less disposable income, a wealth of research indicates it would be bad for the economy.
The FCC is poised to make a final decision early this year. Let’s all hope they don’t choose in favor of crippling the internet and its users with new taxes and discouraged innovation.
Grover Norquist Show: Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium Strangled by Internet Sales Tax?
Since 1998, the Internet Tax Freedom Act, called the Internet Tax Moratorium in law, has prevented states and localities from imposing taxes on Internet access that create barriers to Internet adoption and innovation.
On the Grover Norquist Show, Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Katie McAuliffe of Digital Liberty discussed the importance of permanently banning Internet access taxes rather than a neutered act with a torn ACL.
The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, PITFA, permanently bans Internet access taxes and removes the taxes on access that are already in place.
The lame bill is known as MITFA; a combination of Internet sales tax legislation, the Marketplace Fairness Act, and an Internet Tax Moratorium that is not permanent and allows taxes on access to continue.
Norquist and McAuliffe highlighted the December 11th expiration of the Internet Tax Moratorium and the devious, post-election MITFA lame duck scheme.
Marketplace Fairness Act Would Cripple Small Businesses
The Marketplace Fairness Act is being billed by its supporters as a common-sense proposal that would level the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar retailers by taking away online retailers’ exemption from sales tax. Currently, sales tax is only applied to online purchases when a customer buys something from a business that has a location within the customer’s state. What sounds noble, or at least harmless, at first glance begins to sound more like foxes volunteering to guard the hen house when you look at how the MFA would play out in practice, and when you examine who’s supporting it and who isn’t.
Not only would the complexity of complying with the MFA be a massive burden on businesses (the tax would be based on where the customer lives, so a popular online retailer could realistically find themselves paying sales tax to all 50 states, navigating all the unique tax jurisdictions with unique rules of each state.). The cost of compliance would cripple a startup or small niche business. According to Freedomworks Policy Analyst Julie Borowski’s article on Rare; “It would be overly complicated for online businesses to pay sales taxes on goods shipped across state lines. There are nearly 10,000 different sales tax jurisdictions in the United States. The number of tax jurisdictions varies widely by state—New Jersey has only two while Texas has over 1,500 different sales tax jurisdictions.
To add extra confusion, some jurisdictions charge different rates based on the type of item being sold. For example, eight states fully or partially exempt clothing from sales taxes. Some exceptions do apply. In Pennsylvania, there are no sales taxes on clothes except for formal wear, bathing suits, fur coats, and accessories such as jewelry or purses.”
The True Simplification of Taxation (TruST) coalition finds in their recent study; “Mid-market online and catalog retailers ($5-50 million in annual sales) will spend $80,000 to $290,000 in setup and integration costs for the so-called “free software” promised by advocates of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). And every year, these retailers will also spend $57,000-$260,000 on maintenance, updates, audits and service fees charged by software providers.”
When you look at the hundreds of thousands of dollars annual compliance would cost, it’s easy to see why online-only giants like Amazon, and other big businesses like Best Buy and Home Depot, who do a significant amount of online business would support the MFA despite the burden it stands to be. These businesses can afford to comply with the MFA, and would even get the extra benefit of seeing their smaller competitors hurt or driven out of business by the immense cost of this tax.
On top of the unfair cost and complexity of the Marketplace Fairness Act is the issue it raises about tax jurisdiction. Why should any state be allowed to collect taxes from businesses in other states? What right does the government of New York have to take money from an Arizona business? As ATR’s Katie McAuliffe explains, the MFA sets a disturbing precedent for states to tax people who aren’t even their constituents;
“Their ultimate goal is to export their tax and regulatory burden to Americans who have no recourse at the ballot box. A politician’s dream come true.”
More Evidence that EPA’s Clean Power Plan is Economically Irresponsible
NERA Economic consulting released a report yesterday expounding on what we already knew would be the devastating effects of the Clean Power Plan on both industry and individuals nationwide. The report highlights a number of reasons why the harm caused by the EPA’s proposed regulation would far outweigh the benefits.
While reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere by less than .5%, reducing sea level rise by the thickness of a few sheets of paper, and reducing the global average temperature by about 2/100ths of one degree, NERA expects the Clean Power Plan to increase electricity prices in 43 states by double digit percentages (some up to 20%), alongside the $41 billion per year the regulation will already cost both consumers and businesses. The proposal will lose us an estimated 45,000 megawatts of coal-based energy and stands to close down several coal plants, directly costing the livelihoods of their employees.
A huge segment of our population is elderly, and of that segment, a staggering percentage lives on less than $30,000 annually. Young adults are moving in with their parents at an alarming rate due to financial difficulties, and untold numbers of young families already have to choose between paying the light bill or eating. Americans can’t afford to let the EPA play at reducing emissions at the cost of further crippling our economy and putting such a heavy burden on the many among us who already struggle to afford the energy they need to live.
EPA Clean Power Plan to Disproportionately Affect Seniors
The EPA itself has predicted that their proposed Clean Power plan will cause electricity rate prices by 2020 to go up an average of 5.9% - 6.5%, or even 10%-12% in some regions. The cost of this will be hard enough for the average working American to shoulder, but could be devastating for the approximately 27 million senior households in the United States, who already only have a median pre-tax income of $33,848. A recent study from the 60+ Association details these disturbing predictions as well as others for young and elderly Americans alike. Among the findings are:
- The Census Bureau reports that the median pre-tax household income of 65+ households in America was $33,848 in 2012, 41% below the $57,353 median income of younger households.
- More than 40% of America’s 65+ households had gross annual incomes below $30,000 in 2012, with an average pre-tax household income of $17,032, or $1,419 per month.
- The prices of all essential consumer energy products – electricity, natural gas and gasoline- have increased at rates exceeding both the CPI and Social Security COLAs for the past decade, and these trends are expected to continue.
- The average annual electric bill for 65+ households, $1,164 in 2009, represented 61% of total residential energy bills.
- Energy costs are adversely impacting lower-income seniors afflicted by health conditions, leading them to forego food for a day, reduce medical or dental care, fail to pay utility bills, or become ill because their home was too cold. (APPRISE, 2009).
The Clean Power Plan will have no significant effect on global carbon emissions as it is. There is no way to justify a regulation that stands to do so much harm to some of the most vulnerable among us.
Skyrocketing US Oil Production Keeps Gasoline Prices Down
Despite military and political turmoil in Libya, Iraq, and other major oil-producing countries, the US is producing enough oil to keep up with demand and keep prices down. The unrest in countries that are normally big producers of crude oil has caused a worldwide decrease in production of about 3 million barrels per day, but the US has made up for it and then some by producing about 4 million barrels every day, largely with the help of state- and privately-owned shale formations in North Dakota and Texas. Without this production, crude oil could cost up to $150 per barrel.
This is a significant step toward energy independence for the United States. There is much speculation as to whether the oil booms in North Dakota and Texas will continue or die out as quickly as they came, but what is clear is that the US will never have energy independence within the current administration that has steadily decreased production and exploration of oil and natural gas on federal lands (Between 2009 and 2013, production of natural gas on federal lands was reduced by 28 percent, and oil production was reduced by 6 percent) while drastically increasing the amount of time it takes to process applications for permits to drill.