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Chris Prandoni

Senate Passes Watered-Down Postal Bill


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 12:00 PM PERMALINK


After refusing to pass a budget for three years, the Senate today moved a postal “reform” bill that edifies the upper chamber’s refusal to confront the nation’s fiscal problems. Rather than reform the postal service’s bloated bureaucracy, the Democrat Senate has expanded the federal carrier’s authority and pushed it further towards bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the already watered down Senate bill only worsened throughout the amendment process; nearly every amendment that would have made S. 1789 more like Issa’s Postal Reform Act failed.

ATR highlighted many of S. 1789’s shortcomings in an earlier letter:

Given that over 80 percent of the Post Office’s costs are labor related—while FedEx and UPS spend 20-40 percent less—it is not surprising that the government entity can afford to shed 220,000 employees, according to its own estimates.  Unfortunately, S. 1789 does little to right-size USPS’s workforce and rein in overhead costs. Additionally, S. 1789 leaves thousands of unnecessary post offices and mail processing facilities untouched and requires Saturday delivery for at least two more years.

Not accounting for declines in mail volume, and subsequent declines in revenue, the USPS finds itself left with staff, infrastructure, and benefits it can no longer support. In 2010 the USPS lost $8.5 billion. Even after cooking the books and postponing $5.5 billion in retirement payments, the USPS still lost $5.1 billion in 2011. The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste points out that in 2010, former Postmaster General John Potter predicted that the USPS would lose $238 billion over ten years should the necessary reforms—absent in the bill before the Senate—fail to be implemented.  

Another concern that was not alleviated through the amendment process is whether or not USPS should be able to offer new services and products in order to bring in new revenue. In the past when the USPS has faced shortfalls, the entity has attempted to offer consumers more products—international shipping, ties, and other eventual boondoggles. These forays into other services have consistently ended poorly. Firstly, the USPS is not equipped to deliver these products at market price, so these new products inevitably result in a loss for the USPS. Secondly, any revenue the USPS gains comes at the detriment of a private company offering the same service.

Leveraging the government’s support of USPS to encroach on private businesses is bad policy and should be explicitly prohibited. Yet, the Senate bill leaves the door wide open for these types of job-killing activities.

Every day Democrats postpone meaningful USPS reform, the more difficult and painful eventual USPS restructuring will be.

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Conservatives to Senate: Rein in NLRB


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, April 23rd, 2012, 1:30 PM PERMALINK


Last week, over two dozen conservative groups urged the Senate to support Sen. Enzi's Congressional Resolution of Disapproval and overturn the National Labor Relations Board’s Ambush Election regulation.

Some excerpts are below; click here for the full letter:

The ambush elections rule is a prime example of the NLRB advancing an element of legislation already rejected by Congress and putting the interests of labor bosses above those of workers.  If the Senate fails to overturn it, the rule will lead to even greater erosion of workers’ rights, by making it more difficult for them to make an informed decision. It would also add to the increasing regulatory burden on businesses and entrepreneurs that has stifled job creation.

Currently, the average period before a union election after a union files a petition is 38 days. This gives both the union and management an opportunity to explain the facts and ensure workers understand the high stakes in a representation election. The new rule will shorten it to as little as 10 days and eliminate procedural safeguards employers currently have to make sure union elections are duly authorized and eligible workers are properly defined before an election takes place.

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CAP Guides American People to Field of Democrat Straw Men


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, April 5th, 2012, 9:48 AM PERMALINK


Last week the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a paper showing how the organization can exploit, deepen, and further American misconceptions about the price of gasoline. What amounts to nothing more than a propaganda piece, CAP looks to capitalize on the inherent complexities of America’s energy sector and translate ignorance into Democrat electoral gains.

While this may be good politics, this type of misinformation is damaging—it lowers the energy debate to the lowest common denominator making it harder to solve America’s very real problems.

The CAP report urges Democrats to:

Play offense. Focus the debate on our policy agenda that big oil opposes. The strongest policy solutions are the ones being advocated by progressives, and are viewed as far more credible than the solutions advanced by the “drill here, drill now” contingent.

Ironically, the premises for CAP’s questions are largely false making their “solutions” irrelevant and inaccurate. Encouraging partisans to stand on shaky intellectual ground simply for the sake of “playing offense” is what most Americans find so offensive about Washington.

A quick fact check about CAP’s four main talking points:

Claim: American Oil for American Soil. Require oil companies to use the oil that is produced in the United States from public lands and offshore to meet energy needs here at home, and stop oil companies from exporting oil from our public lands and waters to overseas markets. (60 percent)

Fact: Americans will be happy to know that Americans consume nearly all of the oil we produce. But don’t take my word for it; check out the Energy Information Agency’s oil export import numbers. Many of the petroleum products the U.S. exports are substances that are of no use in this country, like oil coke, so prohibiting exports of these manufactured products would be of zero benefit to American consumers.

Claim: End Oil Subsidies. Repeal the four billion dollars per year in federal subsidies that currently are given to the oil companies, and use that money instead to fund investments that will make us less dependent on oil. (55 percent)

Fact: American oil and natural gas companies don’t receive a single dollar from the American people to produce oil and natural gas. What CAP is referring to as subsidies are standard tax deductions employed by many domestic manufacturers. Click here to read more about these cost recovery mechanisms utilized by the oil and natural gas industry.
 
Claim: Crack Down On Excessive Speculation. Tighter oversight and regulation of Wall Street speculators to prevent them from artificially driving up the price of gasoline. (54 percent)

Fact: While it has always been popular to denounce Wall Street, oil speculators actually help smooth changes in oil prices. Also, if you are going to blame speculators for high oil prices, you must credit them with record low natural gas, i.e. electricity, prices.  

Claim: More Fuel Efficient Cars and Trucks. Increase fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, so they get more miles per gallon and consumers will save on their gasoline costs. (49 percent)

Fact: If people want to buy more fuel-efficient cars, they are entirely capable of making that decision absent government mandates. There are many reasons why Americans might choose not to purchase more fuel efficient cars. For example, poorer Americans who value their lives might abstain from purchasing a government-mandated car since they are significantly more expensive and lighter, increasingly the likelihood of death in an accident.

All in all, the only real conclusions one should glean from this paper is that CAP is more interested in electoral gains than facts.

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Democrat policies threaten to starve American refiners


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, March 30th, 2012, 12:29 PM PERMALINK


With the 2012 election cycle in full swing, yesterday Obama took to the stump calling for job-killing tax increases on nefarious oil companies. Although nothing gets the Democrat base excited like demonizing oil and natural gas producers—an industry responsible for over 9 million American jobs, mind you—raising taxes on the oil industry will necessarily stymie American production of our natural resources.

What those hoping “Big Oil” topples over don’t realize is that thousands of American manufacturers rely on the oil and natural gas industry—businesses sell equipment to oil and natural gas producers and also transform crude oil into fuel and a variety of other useful products. One industry that would be hardest hit from a reduction in oil and natural gas production would be America’s refiners. Already struggling for a variety of mostly government-induced reasons, further reductions in crude would literally starve America’s robust refining sector of its lifeblood.

I say further reductions because the Obama Administration is already inhibiting domestic oil and natural gas production wherever possible. Cancelling lease sales on the Atlantic coast, delaying lease sales for nearly a year in the gulf, and increasing the amount of time it takes companies to receive requisite permits have all immediately impacted domestic oil production, and intern, America’s refiners.

To learn more, check out the House Natural Resources Committee’s depressing compilation of all the ways Democrats have attempted to impede domestic energy.

Over in the other chamber, the Republican Energy and Natural Resources staff created this great chart illustrating how difficult it became for job creators to receive an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) under Obama’s tenure:But it doesn’t end there. The most explicit attack on refiners from the Obama Administration thus far must be the decision to kill the Keystone pipeline. As most people know by now, the Keystone Pipeline would have delivered around 800,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil to, you guessed it, America’s refiners. Creating tens of thousands of construction jobs and ensuring that America’s refiners have crude oil to manufacture into other products, the Keystone pipeline would have been a shot of life for the recession weary construction and refining industries. Unfortunately, Obama’s decision to kill the pipeline is indicative of the Administration’s antagonistic stance towards anyone involved in the oil and natural gas supply chain.

So while oil production on federal lands will in all likelihood continue to decline as long as Obama is in the White House, America’s refiners will have to rely on oil production from private lands. Instead of using oil and natural gas companies as an applause line, the Obama Administration should look to increase American jobs and energy security—it sure would make life for America’s refiners a whole lot easier.

 

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ATR Encourages Congress to Debate S.2204


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, March 26th, 2012, 11:42 AM PERMALINK


ATR sent the following letter to the Senate; click here for a PDF file of the document:

26 March 2012

Dear Senator:

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has a truly awful piece of legislation: S. 2204.  It will increase taxes on Americans. It will increase the price of gasoline at the pump and the cost of heating your home. It increases total taxation of Americans by more than $12 billion over the next decade in addition to Obama’s looming tax hikes.

This legislation is so bad it deserves to be debated before the entire nation on CSPAN.

Americans for Tax Reform urges all pro-taxpayer Senators to vote to proceed to consider S.2204 which will trigger a 30 hour period of debate on Menendez’s efforts to raise taxes and increase gasoline prices.

ATR then urges all pro-taxpayer Senators to vote “no” on any motion to cut off debate and proceed to a vote.   Those Senators who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge will clearly keep their written commitment to taxpayers if they vote to allow debate and then vote no on efforts to actually enact Menendez’s gas price increasing tax hikes.
                
Fewer jobs, less energy
Unable to adequately recover their investment costs, oil and natural gas producers will be forced to scrap or delay future projects. S. 2204 will cause layoffs, reduce domestic oil production, and cripple American companies abroad. With the global supply of oil tightening, Congress should be encouraging American oil production, not crippling the industry through tax increases.

Time and time again, Democrats argue that oil and natural gas companies are the recipients of numerous “subsidies.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth—oil and natural gas companies don’t receive a single cent from the American government to produce oil and gas.

Tax hypocrisy
President Obama and his Party have regularly asked Congress to “close tax loopholes,” and yet S. 2204 further muddles our tax code by reauthorizing a slew of tax credits for Democrat-favored industries. S. 2204 is proof that Democrats are not committed to tax reform, nor do they have a consistent idea of what tax reform even is. Unlike, Democrats’ distortive policies, 26 Republican Senators expressed their commitment to true tax reform by voting for Sen. DeMint’s amendment to repeal energy tax credits and lower the corporate tax rate by an identical amount.      

Democrats’ antagonistic stance towards oil and natural gas companies is antithetical to tax policies they advocated for just last year. Arguing that full business expensing creates jobs by lowering companies’ investment costs, Obama championed this policy for small businesses. Attempting to score political points, Democrats are uniformly fixated on repealing these tax policies for oil and natural gas producers. The benefits of faster cost recovery are never more evident than in the capital intensive oil and natural gas industry.

Washington’s overspending problem
As many Americans now understand, this country doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Showing no interest in seriously reducing spending, Democrats are asking for America’s job creators to prop up a bloated federal government.  

It is for these reasons that I urge you encourage debate and then to oppose passage of S. 2204.

Onward,
Grover G. Norquist
 

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CAP Blames Oil Companies for the World's Problems


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012, 3:06 PM PERMALINK


In typical Center for American Progress (CAP) partisan  fashion, Daniel Weiss manages to blame oil companies for the price of gasoline, America’s overspending problem, the inefficiency of biofuels, and for not drilling on land the federal government refuses to lease. But don’t let ‘em off so easy, Mr. Weiss, oil and natural gas producers are also responsible for the Iraq war, world hunger, and that time I wrecked my ATV and broke my arm (it was powered by gasoline!). The genesis of Mr. Weiss’s stream of consciousness post is both the Paul Ryan budget, which preserves standard expensing provisions for oil and natural gas producers, and Sen. Menendez’s reintroduction of his humorously titled “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act”.

Grasping at air, Mr. Weiss concludes that the “the Ryan budget compounds the cost of high oil and gasoline prices on the middle class” because the budget appropriately eliminates Solyndra-like government spending on biofuels which, one day, might be able to displace America’s oil consumption. Mr. Weiss misses the joke that reducing government spending mitigates the government’s burden on the middle class. While ATR and Mr. Ryan argue that the government has no business helping companies turn algae into something you can put in your gas tank, no one seriously believes that biofuels will alleviate consumers’ pain at the pump anytime soon.

What would, in fact, “compound the cost of high oil and gasoline prices on the middle class” is exactly what CAP, Obama, and Sen. Menendez are proposing: raising taxes on oil and natural gas producers to the tune of $40 billion. When you tax something you get less of it—“it” in this instance being jobs, economic productivity, and oil. For a more nuanced explanation, I refer readers to an American Petroleum Institute commissioned study.

ATR has written extensively about the gimmicks CAP uses to scapegoat oil and natural gas companies as tax dodgers, a narrative The Wall Street Journal highlights in a recent editorial. From the WSJ:

Here's a staggering fact: The Tax Foundation estimates that, between 1981 and 2008, oil and gas companies sent more dollars to Washington and the state capitols than they earned in profits for shareholders.

Exxon Mobil, the world's largest oil and gas company, says that in the five years prior to 2010 it paid about $59 billion in total U.S. taxes, while it earned . . . $40.5 billion domestically. Another way of putting it is that for every dollar of net U.S. profits between 2006 and 2010, the company incurred $1.45 in taxes. Exxon's 2010 tax bill was three times larger than its domestic profits. The company can stay in business because it operates globally and earned a total net income after tax of $30.5 billion in 2010 on revenues of $370.1 billion.

Crunching Compustat North America numbers, API estimates that the average effective tax rate for oil and gas companies is 41.1% for 2010—i.e., taxes as a share of net income. That is broadly in line with the Energy Information Administration's estimates for "major energy producers." By the same measure, other manufacturers on the S&P Industrial index pay an effective rate of 26.5%.

I’d encourage everyone to read this great piece. But you get the point, oil and natural gas producers pay a lot in taxes. Mr. Weiss also blames oil companies for not creating more jobs, which is silly, since the Obama Administration has made it nearly impossible to do so by delaying or cancelling lease sales and drilling permits. Mr. Weiss is trying to have his cake and eat it too; his endgame is less American oil and natural gas production which consequently leads to, you guessed it, fewer jobs. That’s like blaming oil companies for not building the Keystone pipeline, which Obama killed.

There are a lot of reasons why gasoline is so expensive these days, but the Obama Administration has done little, if anything, to alleviate consumers’ pain at the pump. Conversely, Republicans have rightly proposed increased oil and natural gas production which would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and add billions of barrels of oil to the world marketplace.

More on Paul Ryan budget’s spending and tax proposals.

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ATR urges Representatives to cosign Flake's PTC letter


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, March 15th, 2012, 12:04 PM PERMALINK


Click here for a PDF copy of ATR's letter

15 March 2012

Dear Representative:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I urge you to cosign Rep. Flake’s Dear Colleague which asks Congress to let current law run its course by allowing the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewable energy sources to expire on December 31, 2012.

Allowing the PTC to lapse is not a tax increase as it was never intended to be permanent. The 112th Congress is under no obligation to extend temporary tax policy; simply because the PTC is law in 2012 does not justify the tax credit’s existence indefinitely. The PTC was originally introduced to facilitate a fledgling industry. Since then, the wind industry has sufficiently matured and its power generation is even mandated in numerous states.

ATR supports immediate elimination of the PTC so long as the tax increase is offset by an equal or greater tax cut. Embracing this pro-growth tax reform strategy, Rep. Pompeo has introduced the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act which eliminates every energy tax credit and reduces the corporate tax rate by an equal amount. The PTC disadvantages energy consumers by skewing America’s energy market, propping up an inefficient industry, and distorting our tax code.

Originally introduced under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the PTC was expanded to include wind production under the 2005 American Jobs Creation Act. By claiming the PTC in excess of $1 billion annually, the wind industry has come to depend on the 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit.

Relying so heavily on the PTC, the wind industry has put Congress in the awkward and ill-suited position of deciding whether Americans will consume more or less wind energy. America’s energy markets are enormously complex systems which function most efficiently without government’s distortive policies.

Proponents of the PTC extension tout potential job creation and warn of possible job losses should Congress fail to reauthorize the PTC. However, many of the studies cited by PTC advocates ignore job losses in other industries that produce and transport coal and natural gas. Similarly, since wind is less efficient than traditional forms of energy, further reliance on wind will likely increase employers’ electricity bills and also induce layoffs.

Given wind energy’s cost and inability to consistently generate power, it is unsurprising that this energy source supplies less than 3 percent of America’s electricity needs.

Burdened with political considerations, the federal government is ill-equipped to determine what source of energy Americans should use. With the PTC set to expire at the end of this year, Congress has a great opportunity to clean America’s tax code and begin peeling back government’s distortive policies—simply by taking no action.

Onward,
Grover G. Norquist
 

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ATR will Keyvote DeMint and Menendez/Burr Amendments, Oppose Stabenow


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012, 11:23 AM PERMALINK


Click here for a PDF file of this document

A “Yea” vote on Sen. DeMint’s amendment #1589 will be scored positively on Americans for Tax Reform’s congressional rankings:

DeMint amendment #1589 (creates a fair energy market through tax reform): Modeled after Reagan’s 1986 tax reform, the DeMint amendment repeals energy tax credits and reduces the corporate tax rate by an equivalent amount. Burdened with political considerations, the federal government is ill-equipped to determine what source of energy Americans should use. Determined not to pick winners and losers, the DeMint amendment eliminates tax credits from a score of industries—from oil and natural gas companies to wind producers. A win for consumers, the DeMint amendment ensures that the most efficient, reliable, and cleanest form of energy is produced and utilized.

A “Nay” vote on Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 will be scored positively on Americans for Tax Reform’s congressional rankings:

Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (NAT GAS Act): Congress and regulatory agencies have piled on rules and regulations in an attempt to nudge, or force, Americans to use lawmakers’ preferred energy sources. Republicans who wish to facilitate natural gas production need not support Menendez/Burr; the amendment does nothing to alleviate many supply-side concerns conservatives have. Instead, Menendez/Burr inequitably gives certain natural gas consumer an advantage over other natural gas consumers while implementing a user fee on other natural gas consumers.

Conservatives should begin peeling away the government’s consumption mandates and tax policies, not piling on more rules. Unfortunately, the NAT GAS Act takes the opposite approach—further skewing the market, inflating natural gas consumption, and potentially driving up the cost of natural gas.

Americans for Tax Reform strongly urges Senators to oppose the following amendment:

Stabenow amendment #1812 (wind tax credits): The Production Tax Credit was originally introduced to facilitate a fledgling industry. Since then, the wind industry has sufficiently matured and its power generation is even mandated in numerous states. Congress should not be in the business of propping up or aiding one source of energy over another. Given wind energy’s cost and inability to consistently generate power, it is unsurprising that this energy source supplies less than 3 percent of America’s electricity needs.

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Surface Transportation Energy Amendments


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, March 8th, 2012, 12:00 PM PERMALINK


Click here for a PDF file of this document

Americans for Tax Reform strongly urges Senators to support the following amendments:

1.    Vitter amendment #1535 (domestic energy development): Spurring economic activity, creating thousands of jobs, and increasing domestic energy production, Sen. Vitter’s amendment would restore the Department of Interior’s 2010-2015 lease plan. In 2008, a bipartisan agreement was reached to lift the decades-long congressional ban on new offshore drilling and open new reserves off the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts. It is important to note Congressional democrats were in control of both houses when legislation was passed lifting the moratorium in nearly all our offshore resources.  

2.    Hoeven amendment #1537 (Keystone Pipeline XL):  Given the Obama Administration’s repeated attempts to block construction of the pipeline—and the thousands of jobs, increased energy security, and economic activity tethered to the project—Congress must approve the Keystone Pipeline. Studied and reviewed for nearly three years, the Keystone Pipeline has been thoroughly vetted by numerous federal agencies and successfully made its way through the federal rigmarole.

3.    DeMint amendment #1589 (creates a fair energy market through tax reform): Modeled after Reagan’s 1986 tax reform, the DeMint amendment repeals energy tax credits and reduces the corporate tax rate by an equivalent amount. Burdened with political considerations, the federal government is ill-equipped to determine what source of energy Americans should use—the DeMint amendment ensure that the most efficient, reliable, and cleanest form of energy is produced.

4.    Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT):  The Collins amendment would require the Senate to rewrite the onerous, job killing Boiler MACT rule.  

Americans for Tax Reform strongly urges Senators to oppose the following amendments:

1.    Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (NAT GAS Act): Congress and regulatory agencies have piled on rules and regulations in an attempt to nudge, or force, Americans to use lawmakers’ preferred energy sources. Conservatives should begin peeling away the government’s consumption mandates and tax policies, not piling on more rules. Unfortunately, the NAT GAS Act takes the opposite approach—skewing the market, inflating natural gas consumption, and potentially driving up the cost of natural gas.  

2.    Stabenow amendment #1812 (wind tax credits): The Production Tax Credit was originally introduced to facilitate a fledgling industry. Since then, the wind industry has sufficiently matured and its power generation is even mandated in numerous states. Congress should not be in the business of propping up or aiding one source of energy over another. Given wind energy’s cost and inability to consistently generate power, it is unsurprising that this energy source supplies only 3 percent of America’s electricity needs.

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ATR Urges Senate to Pass U MACT Resolution of Disapproval


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 10:14 AM PERMALINK


Today ATR sent the following letter the the Hill:

Dear Senator:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I urge you to support Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) resolution of disapproval which looks to overturn the EPA’s Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology regulation, also known as “Utility MACT.” Filed under authority granted by the Congressional Review Act, this resolution would halt the EPA’s efforts to implement destructive, job-killing policies.

With Congress rejecting President Obama’s Cap-and-Trade proposal, the Administration inappropriately utilized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to achieve similar ends. Sen. Inhofe’s resolution of disapproval affords Congress the opportunity to restore long held understandings of Executive and Legislative delegations of power and responsibilities.

The EPA’s own analysis found that the Utility MACT regulation alone will cost $10 billion annually through 2016, making this the most expensive regulation ever written for power plants. This cost estimate does not even include other EPA regulations’ price tags, which compound costs, and increase the total burden of EPA rules.

If allowed to go into effect, Utility MACT costs will be passed to American families and job creators resulting in increased electricity prices and the possible elimination of 1.4 million jobs. The Chamber of Commerce notes that the Utility MACT rule has already resulted in the announced shutdown of nine coal-fired power plants in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, further disadvantaging these struggling states.

Claims by the EPA of any health benefits related to Utility MACT are greatly exaggerated. In fact, mercury is the only hazardous air pollutant (HAP) which the EPA quantified any health benefits for. But these health benefits are minimal, only achieving between $500,000 and $6 million in health savings per year. Forcing coal-fueled power plants to spend at least $10 billion retrofitting facilities to achieve comparably minuscule health savings fails any cost-benefit analysis.

It is for these reasons I urge you to support Sen. Inhofe’s joint resolution of disapproval; it is imperative Congress prevent the EPA from governing through regulatory fiat.

Onward,
Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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