Conservative Groups Unify Around McConnell Strategy to Protect States Against EPA Power Grab
Americans for Tax Reform today released a coalition letter signed by 33 nationwide conservative or free-market organizations supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell’s work with states to contest the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP).
Last June the EPA proposed the legally precarious CPP that requires states to reduce carbon emissions but would increase electricity costs for consumers and threaten grid reliability. In a letter sent to every state, Sen. McConnell urged governors to think twice before getting their fingerprints on EPA’s proposal.
Free-market and conservative groups from across the country endorsed Sen. McConnell’s strategy, writing:
"We also agree with you that states are completely within their legal rights to “just say no” and let EPA take sole responsibility for implementing the 111(d) rule. The right of states to keep their fingerprints off what they regard as a misguided or unlawful rule is basic to the very concept of cooperative federalism."
"It is therefore appropriate for Congress, the branch of government charged with keeping the Executive in check, to help states fully understand the obligations and consequences flowing from obscure federal regulations. After all, Congress wrote the laws the EPA is using to justify the CPP."
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, praised Sen. McConnell’s leadership and criticized EPA’s pressure campaign saying “EPA is asking states to do what the agency knows it cannot legally do: control carbon emissions ‘outside the fence.’” Norquist continued, “Before states submit a State Implementation Plan, governors and legislators would do well to heed Sen. McConnell’s advice and study the impacts of the Clean Power Plan while waiting for the courts to rule on the Clean Power Plan’s legality.”
The full letter can be found here.
The coalition letter was signed by:
- 60 Plus Association
- American Energy Alliance
- Americans for Prosperity
- Americans for Tax Reform
- Beacon Center of Tennessee
- The Bluegrass Institute
- Buckeye institute
- Caesar Rodney Institute
- The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia
- Civitas Institute
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Concerned Women for America
- Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
- E&E Legal
- Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce
- HomeMakers for America
- Independence Institute
- Independent Women’s Forum
- Independent Women’s Voice
- I am Created Equal, Colorado
- The James Madison Institute
- The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy
- Let Freedom Ring
- Maine Heritage Policy Center
- Mississippi Center for Public Policy
- Montana Policy Institute
- National Taxpayers Union
- Public Interest Institute
- Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity
- Rio Grande Foundation
- Taxpayers Protection Alliance
- Texas Public Policy Foundation
Lookout! Congress Considering Increasing the Cost of Flying
In about 200 days, Congress will be reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Why should you care? Because a Congressional coalition is forming to increase passenger fees to pay for airport projects.
These potential tax increases would significantly affect passengers.
Taxes, 17 of them, already make up 21% of a plane ticket’s price. Proponents of this tobacco-like level of taxation argue that these passenger fees are necessary to support airport spending. This argument presumes that airports need the money, that these investments would not occur without government transfers. However, airports currently have $11 billion in cash holding which is around 357 days of liquidity.
Not only are airports flush with cash, they have also spent $70 billion on completed, underway, or approved airport capital projects at the nation’s 30 largest airports since 2008. Since 2000, airports revenue has increased by 65% percent to $24.5 billion in 2013. Yet, many airports are claiming poverty and that they need even more money from airlines and passengers.
In order to achieve this end, these spending interests are looking to increase the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap. A one-dollar increase in the PFC cap would lead to $700 million in extra costs for passengers every year.
Unsurprisingly, this idea isn’t a popular one: 87% of voters already think the PFC is too high; 82% of people oppose the almost doubling of the PFC and the automatic increases that come with indexing the PFC to inflation.
Most airport revenue streams are at a record high, so it’s hard to justify a tax increase. Since the federal aviation taxes have tripled since 1972 – and since 2000 there has been a 52% increase on a per passenger basis since 2000 – Congress should consider reducing taxes for passengers, not increasing them.
The Environmental Lobby’s Ludicrous Polls
Over the past week, the environmental lobby released two polls claiming widespread support for President Obama’s costly, job-killing and downright dangerous environmental agenda. The problem is: the polling data is flawed—a gross misrepresentation of voter opinions formed into a patchwork that supports environmentalists’ extremist narrative, yet fails on the facts.
New data from Yale University and a poll released today from the Center for American Progress made questionable claims that caught our eye; claims that stand in stark contrast to what we hear time and again from American consumers: regulations that drive up energy costs are bad policy.
Yale’s poll doesn’t include a single question that references the effects of the president’s regulations, like higher costs and weakened reliability. One can only imagine that polling results would have been quite different if participants had full disclosure about the impacts of the Obama climate plan.
In addition, the data used consists of information collected over a three-year period. A great deal can change in terms of how people feel about issues during such a lengthy timeframe. In the case of EPA regulations, they have taken a turn for the worst under the Obama Administration during this period, and Yale’s modeling felt a bit like an apples-to-oranges exercise to merge polls together and distill support when it is very likely those numbers have fluctuated.
The poll conducted by CAP concluded that overall, voters prefer energy policy that invests in renewables, rather than multiple low-cost fuel sources. However, as we know, Americans are in favor of policies that will keep their energy costs from soaring—something sure to happen should we shift reliance on resources like wind and solar.
And did we also mention that one of the polling firm’s research associates, Matt Lee-Ashley, is a CAP senior fellow? Curious.
On the other hand, a variety of polls conducted by groups whose constituencies have real skin in the game had very different outcomes. A poll conducted by the 60 Plus Association in September found that a majority of senior voters are concerned about energy costs rising under EPA’s regulations. With many seniors plagued by hefty finances from medical bills and assisted-living, implications of rising utilities are especially worrisome.
Likewise, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and National Black Chamber of Commerce polled Hispanic and African-American voters before November’s midterm elections. Unsurprisingly, the data revealed that these groups, whose families often rely more on energy assistance programs, are most concerned about the potential economic impacts of EPA’s proposed guidelines.
Norquist Letter to Congress: Don't Raise the Gas Tax, instead...
January 15, 2015
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I urge you to oppose any increases to federal gasoline taxes. Before even considering asking drivers to increase the $35 billion they annually pay in gas taxes, Congress should ensure that Highway Trust Fund (HTF) outlays are actually spent on roads and are not diminished through Davis-Bacon wage requirements. If these reforms are implemented and the federal government still needs more money to build and repair roads, bridges, and highways, I urge you to consider dedicating repatriation revenue to the HTF.
Since 2008, the HTF has spent $55 billion more than it garnered from gas taxes. The HTF is supposed to be a user fee where drivers’ gas taxes fund the HTF and that money is reinvested in bridges and roads. In reality, billions of gas tax dollars are syphoned off to fund mass transit projects in major cities, bike paths, and things like squirrel sanctuaries.
Additionally, Davis-Bacon wage requirements reduce the federal government’s bang for its buck. According to the Davis-Bacon Act, federal construction contracts worth more than $2,000 must pay wages using data collected by the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor. The Joint Economic Committee found that wages paid under Davis-Bacon rules were 22 percent above market wages. This makes sense since an inspector general report found errors in 100 percent of wage reports examined. It also reduces the number of roads and highways the government can build and repair.
After these reforms have been implemented and if the HTF is still in need of more revenue, Congress should allow American companies to bring back, and pay a reduced tax rate on, capital currently stuck abroad.
There is likely well over $1 trillion in after-tax earnings sitting overseas today. Companies don't bring this money back to the U.S. because they would have to pay taxes on the difference between the U.S. corporate income tax rate (over 39 percent when states are included), and whatever rate they already paid overseas (the OECD average is just under 25 percent). Repatriated earnings from an average developed country thus faces a 14 percent surtax when brought home to the United States.
Allowing companies to bring back this money at a reduced, reasonable rate would be a huge boon to the American economy and could bolster the HTF. In 2005, companies were allowed to bring after-tax overseas earnings back to the United States and face an IRS double-tax no higher than 5.25 percent. With this positive incentive, about $320 billion was brought back, resulting in a pro-growth cash windfall to the Treasury of about $17 billion. This money could be earmarked to the HTF. This is an example of raising revenue without raising taxes, unlike a gas tax hike.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has said that average U.S. households will save about $550 on gasoline costs this year. Washington should not be looking to raid this reprieve in gas prices but should ensure that gas tax revenue is spent on roads and that American companies are allowed to bring back earnings abroad.
No Need To Raise The Gas Tax
2015 Projection of the Highway Trust Fund & Transit Accounts
Obama To Veto Keystone Pipeline
One of the first moves of the new Congress is passing legislation that would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline for construction. Keystone, you may remember, is a pipeline that would carry over 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada to American refiners in Texas and Oklahoma. Unfortunately, President Obama has announced that he will veto the bill allowing construction workers to be begin a project that has a 72 percent approval rating.
In a letter to the House of Representatives, ATR president Grover Norquist debunks some of the Left’s canards and highlights Keystone’s job creation numbers:
The State Department’s own 2014 Environmental Impact Statement estimated that “during construction, proposed Project spending would support approximately 42,100 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced), and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States.” Jobs are good.
Next, the State Department rebutted the misinformation propagated by President Obama’s liberal base about Keystone’s impact on oil sands production: “Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project [Keystone Pipeline], remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the U.S.”
Canadian oil sands will be produced, refined, and used. The only real question is how will this oil get to market? Will Canadian crude be shipped by pipeline to American refiners? It should. Pipelines are the most efficient way to transport oil and American refiners are the cleanest in the world.
The good folks over at the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) have an excellent graphic illuminating exactly what types of jobs the State Department thinks will be created.
RPC goes on to debunk many of the Left’s claims about Keystone, like its construction will increase greenhouse gas emissions:
§ The State Department concluded in January 2014 that the project is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.” So greenhouse gas emissions associated with these activities would remain unchanged.
§ Even without the pipeline, and with low oil prices, oil sands will continue to be developed. “The dominant drivers of oil sands development are more global than any single infrastructure project,” the State Department reported. “Oil sands production and investment could slow or accelerate depending on oil price trends, regulations, and technological developments, but the potential effects of those factors on the industry’s rate of expansion should not be conflated with the more limited effects of individual pipelines.”
§ The State Department also reported that transmission of oil through the pipeline would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 28 to 42 percent compared with alternative transportation options.
Unfortunately, appeals using logic, science, or economics are lost on the current Administration. The House and Senate will send the Keystone legislation to the President and he will veto it. It is up to us to try and pick off enough Democrats to override the Obama’s veto.
Senate Committee Report Details Environmentalists' Inner Workings
This story was originally posted on Forbes.com.
Over the past fifty years, America’s environmental movement has grown from college kids adorning flowers to a billion dollar industry. With huge budgets to employ lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations professionals, many of America’s leading environmental non-profits are unrecognizable from their modest beginnings. What may seem like an organic, disparate movement is actually a well oiled machine that receives its funding from a handful of super rich liberal donors operating behind the anonymity of foundations and charities, according to a new report out today by the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW).
The EPW report titled The Chain of Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPAmeticulously details how the “Billionaires’ Club” funds nearly all of the major environmental non-government organizations (NGO), many media outlets, and supposed grassroots activists. The Billionaire Report continues by describing the cozy relationship many environmental groups have with the executive branch and the revolving door that makes this possible.
The most striking aspect of the Billionaire Report is the sheer amount of money that is in play. In 2011 alone, ten foundations donated upwards of half a billion dollars to environmental causes. Many of these foundations, whose assets are valued in the billions, meet and coordinate under the framework provided by the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). Described as the “funding epicenter of the environmental movement,” EGA members doled out $1.13 billion to environmental causes in 2011. EGA’s membership is not public but its clout is self-evident given the amount of money its members direct to recognizable environmental NGOs.
Often times, EGA members will elect to indirectly fund organizations that are the face of the environmental movement. For example, instead of directly cutting a check to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) or the Sierra Club, the Hewlett Foundation or the Packard Foundation will contribute to the Energy Foundation. The Billionaire Report describes the Energy Foundation as “a pass through charity utilized by the most powerful EGA members to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support, to shield them from accountability, and to leverage limited resources by hiring dedicated energy/environment staff to handle strategic giving.”
Visit Forbes.com to find out more about how the far-left environmental movement is funded.
This story was originally posted on Forbes.com.
ATR Endorses Sen. Toomey's Highway Amendment to Help Rebuild Disaster Areas
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) endorses Sen. Toomey’s highway amendment (S. amdt. 3564) that streamlines the construction of bridges, roads, and highways that were damaged during disasters. All too often, byzantine environmental laws unnecessarily delay repairs to essential infrastructure. The Toomey amendment allows roads, highways, and bridges to bypass a number duplicative regulations and permitting requirements so long as they are rebuilt with identical characteristics (capacity, dimension, and design).
Speaking in support of the Toomey amendment, ATR president Grover Norquist said “complicated regulations not only increase the cost of infrastructure projects but delay their construction. Sen. Toomey should be applauded for remedying both of these problems when Americans have the least amount of patience for either — after disasters. If Congress is going to have any chance at reforming the highway trust fund, we’ll need more solutions like this one.”
EPA's Latest Carbon Rule Looks to Crush Coal Industry, Kill Jobs, and Threaten Affordable Energy
In its latest move in the war on coal, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would regulate carbon (CO2) from existing power plants. This unnecessary and expensive regulation will have dire consequence for the American economy, especially when it is paired with existing and pending EPA regulations.
A series of prior regulations will force over 300 coal-fired power plants to close down. More specifically, seven of the EPA’s final or pending regulations are projected to cost the economy more than $60 billion per year in lost GDP and to cause the annual loss of nearly 900,000 jobs.
But these regulations don’t only impact coal miners and heavy manufacturers that depend on coal for affordable electricity. When Americans were freezing and grid operators were stretched thin, many relied on coal-fired power to keep their lights on. In early January, around 75 percent of Southern Company’s coal power plants scheduled to retire were called upon to generate electricity. The Tennessee Valley Authority set new records for electricity demand at the same time that nearly 20 of its coal-fired generating facilities are scheduled for retirement.
The EPA is trying to justify its economic damage and threats to affordable base-load electricity through spurious co-benefit claims about reductions in instances of asthma and heart attacks. In reality, reducing carbon does not prevent asthma or heart attacks, after all, we exhale it every few seconds.
What we do know is that being unemployed can have serious effects on a person’s health. On June 15, 2011, Dr. Harvey Brenner of Johns Hopkins University testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:
“The unemployment rate is well established as a risk factor for elevated illness and mortality rates in epidemiological studies performed since the early 1980s. In addition to influences on mental disorder, suicide and alcohol abuse and alcoholism, unemployment is also an important risk factor in cardiovascular disease and overall decreases in life expectancy.”
These negative consequences can spill over into the quality of life for poor children as the National Center for Health Statistics noted:
Children in poor families were four times as likely to be in fair or poor health as children in families that were not poor.
One of the best ways to help Americans is to ensure that they have a job. ATR will have much more to come on the mechanics and problems with this regulation, but until then, we’ll close with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) comments, “The president promised under his plan, electricity rates would 'necessarily skyrocket,' and this is one promise he is actually delivering on. Four years after a Democratic Senate rejected cap-and-trade, the administration continues its pursuit to regulate where Congress refused to legislate. As the American economy shrunk last quarter, why in the world is the president pushing regulations that will serve to increase utility rates for consumers, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and hamstring our economic recovery? And despite the president’s focus on income inequality, this is a plan to make the poor poorer as it is the nation’s most vulnerable who suffer the most from higher energy prices and layoffs.”
SB 310 Moves to Gov. Kasich’s Desk
Yesterday, Ohio’s House of Representatives followed the Senate’s lead and passed SB 310, legislation to pause the state’s expensive electricity mandates. Ohio residents have spent the past six years living under two renewable energy mandates: one that requires a percentage of the state’s electricity to come from more expensive renewable sources (Renewable Portfolio Standards) and another that requires Ohio’s citizens to use less electricity.
While over 29 states and the District of Colombia have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), the two-year pause contained within SB 310 is the first time a state has successfully passed legislation reexamining this dubious policy. Just as Ohio is considered a bellwether on election night, so too will SB 310 be replicated by other states. This historic moment will be the first of many as RPS mandates ramp up and customers begin to feel their full weight.
In addition to the two-year RPS pause, SB 310 also pauses the forced electricity reduction mandate that is financed by monthly customer surcharges. SB 310 comes in the nick of time as utilities were being forced to increase customer surcharges by huge percentages.
SB 310 will also create a commission to, once and for all, study the effects of these electricity mandates. The legislation contains other measures that mitigate the efficiency mandate and ensure that the law does not violate the Commerce Clause.
If you live in Ohio, make sure your representatives and the governor’s office hear from you.
If you want to learn a little bit more about SB 310 and the electricity mandates it mitigates, check out the below links.
Ohio’s Electricity Reduction Mandate Burdens Residents and Businesses
Repeal Ohio’s Electricity Reduction Mandate
Ohio Moves to Rollback Costly Green Energy Mandates
Ohio Utility To Increase 'Efficiency' Surcharge By 390 Percent