Justin Sykes

Blumenthal Amendment Destroys Trade-in Value and Consumer Choice

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015, 1:06 PM PERMALINK

This week the Senate will likely vote on an amendment being offered by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would make it illegal for dealers to sell a car with an open recall. While at first this sounds reasonable, the reality is this amendment would apply to any and all recalls, some as insignificant as a misprinted owner’s manual.

The consequences of Blumenthal’s amendment would be a blanket restriction leaving not just dealerships holding the bag but American consumers. In fact the most burdensome impact would be on millions of average Americans who suddenly find their cars with zero trade-in value. It would also prevent consumers from buying some models even though the recall is extremely trivial. 

The truth is while safety recalls receive the most attention, the majority are unrelated to safety. For example some KIA models were subject to recall because the tire pressure sticker was misprinted. General Motors also saw a recall of Camaros because “the air bag warning label on the sun visor may peel off.”

Although it is good for consumers to be well informed, enacting overzealous restrictions that blanket the automobile industry and consumer trade-ins is not an approach founded in logic.

For instance a more common sense approach would be to have dealers disclose open recalls at the point of the sale. This would allow consumers to decide whether something as trivial as a misprinted label is important enough to deter purchase. This is exactly how the free market is supposed to work.

Senator Blumenthal’s amendment assumes to little of consumers and market forces. The Senator’s amendment would limit consumer choice and destroy the trade-in value for millions of Americans. Lawmakers in Congress should take action and oppose this illogical and economically detrimental amendment. 


Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

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ATR Urges Congress to let the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) Expire

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, July 20th, 2015, 2:43 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to allow the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy to expire. 

Originally enacted in 2006, this 30 percent commercial and residential credit was intended to facilitate a fledgling solar industry. Yet in recent years solar has sufficiently matured and the time has come for  these taxpayer backed handouts to end.  

Congress now has a great opportunity to clean up America's tax code and begin peeling back government policies that unfairly pick winners and losers - simply by taking no action. Below is the full text of the letter: 

Dear Senators:

 On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I urge you to allow the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy to expire. 

The ITC was never intended to be permanent but has received repeated extensions over the years. Congress is under no obligation to continue to extend temporary tax policy; simply because the ITC is law in 2015 does not justify the tax credit’s existence indefinitely. 

ATR supports allowing the ITC to expire and also urges lawmakers to oppose the inclusion of “Commence Construction” language that some are advocating for, which is a thinly veiled attempt for a backdoor extension of the credit. Allowing the ITC to continue disadvantages energy consumers by skewing America’s energy market, unfairly picking winners and losers and distorting our tax code. 

Originally introduced in 2006, the 30 percent credit for commercial and residential solar was intended to facilitate a fledging industry. Since then, the solar industry has sufficiently matured and its power generation is even mandated in a number of states.

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

Burdened with political considerations, the federal government is ill-equipped to determine what source of energy Americans should use. With the federal ITC set to expire at the end of 2016, Congress has a great opportunity to cleanup America’s tax code and begin peeling back government’s distortive policies – simply by taking no action.


Grover G. Norquist                                                    



Photo Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory 

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ATR Supports Lifting the Crude Export Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015, 10:12 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to support H.R. 702, a bill introduced by Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), which would repeal the outdated federal ban on crude oil exports. 

The current ban on the export of crude oil is a relic of 1970's policy, enacted in response to fears of a domestic energy shortage. Yet today this outdated ban is no longer justified with domestic production at an all time high and the U.S. now one of the world's leading producers.

H.R. 702 would repeal this outdated ban and allow the U.S. to fully realize the economic benefits of the ongoing renaissance in domestic energy production. Below is the full text of the letter:

Dear Congressman:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform I urge you to support H.R. 702, a bill introduced by Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), which would repeal the outdated federal ban on crude oil exports.

The current ban on the export of crude oil is a relic of 1970’s policy, enacted in response to fears of a domestic energy shortage. Nearly four decades later domestic production is at an all time high and the U.S. is now one of the world’s leading producers of oil and natural gas. In fact, production in a number of individual states is outpacing some of the world’s top energy-producing nations. 

This renaissance in domestic production has led to a decline in U.S. dependence on foreign imports and an increasing domestic supply. As a result the U.S. has shifted from a nation concerned over energy scarcity in the 1970’s to a nation of energy abundance today.

Allowing the export of U.S. crude would lead to growth in the energy sector, the benefits of which would ripple throughout the economy. Studies show lifting the ban would add hundreds of thousands of jobs annually and billions to GDP while also reducing domestic gas prices. Allowing crude exports is also projected to have far-reaching impacts in virtually every state, not just producers, as a result of the sprawling production supply chain.

H.R. 702 would allow the U.S. to fully realize the benefits of increased domestic energy production. Specifically, H.R. 702 would prohibit federal officials from imposing or enforcing any restriction on the export of crude oil and would require the Secretary of Energy to study and make recommendations on the appropriate size and composition of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  

H.R. 702 also comes at an extremely important time with the U.S. moving to lift sanctions on Iran that would allow for increased exports of Iranian crude, a move that would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

It is for these reasons that I urge you to support H.R. 702 to lift the ban on crude oil exports.



Grover G. Norquist                                                     


Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond

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ATR Supports Sen. Lee's ESA Amendment

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 8th, 2015, 1:00 PM PERMALINK

The U.S. Senate will soon consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As part of NDAA considerations, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is offering a common sense amendment to improve Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, one that balances state and local conservation concerns with property rights and military interests.

Senator Lee’s amendment would address concerns over the impacts that a potential listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse (GSG) would have on military operations and property rights. Recent reports from the Army, Air Force and Navy have highlighted that a potential listing could impact training operations, increase land management costs and prohibit military modernization.

In order to address these concerns, this amendment builds on recent conservation successes western states have had and highlights that states, not the federal government, are better suited to handle local conservation efforts. For instance Utah’s State Conservation Plan for the GSG has successfully increased the state’s GSG population almost 40% in recent years. ATR supports this amendment and urges all members of the Senate to do the same.   

Senator Lee’s amendment contains a number of necessary provisions that balance conservation with property rights and military considerations.

The amendment delays the GSG listing in order to allow Governors to effectively implement their state recovery plans. Senator Lee’s amendment would also delist the American Burying Beetle (ABB) which has seen a population surge in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The ABB has also met the Service’s own recovery objectives for the Midwest region and thus should be delisted.

Senator Lee's amendment is also consistent with the legislative language of the HASC-passed NDAA, which prohibits the listing of the GSG in an effort to encourage state-initiated plans that have proved overwhelmingly more successful than federal efforts.

With the potential listing of the Greater Sage-Grouser coming soon, lawmakers should act now to encourage effective state conservation plans as well as to protect the property rights of their constituents and the U.S. military. Senator Lee’s amendment not only supports more efficient methods of species conservation but also does so while providing for military and property rights concerns. ATR urges all Senators to support this common sense solution.


Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie 

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TSCA Modernization Act Would Benefit Consumers and the Economy

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 1st, 2015, 2:19 PM PERMALINK

This week the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a full committee vote on H.R. 2576, the TSCA Modernization Act. This bipartisan Act, sponsored by Representative Shimkus (R-IL) and co-sponsored by Representatives Upton (R-MI), Pallone (D-NJ) and Tonko (D-NY), would offer much needed reforms to chemical regulation in the U.S. that would benefit consumers and the nation’s economy.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976 to regulate the production and use of chemicals in American commerce. However industry innovations in product development and chemical safety have far outpaced the Act’s provisions leaving it outdated and untouched by lawmakers for almost 40 years.

This has led to criticism of TSCA over the years from industry, environmental and consumer groups that all point to inefficiencies in the Act’s chemical evaluation process, as well as a patch work of state regulations that can stymie interstate commerce and increase compliance issues for businesses.

Both of these concerns have far reaching impacts on the economy and consumer confidence, further making the case for reforms. As such, the TSCA Modernization Act or H.R. 2576 would alleviate these longstanding issues surrounding TSCA by offering common sense reforms.

First, H.R. 2576 puts in place measures to improve the chemical review process in order to increase consumer protections. The Act establishes hard and fast deadlines for EPA decisions on risk evaluations and requires such decisions be based on health and environmental considerations as opposed to costs. It also requires full consideration of vulnerable subpopulations and ensures each review is based on the best available science.

Additionally, products that fall within TSCA’s purview often move in and out of interstate commerce, being used as part of manufactured goods or as intermediaries in industrial processes. Due to inefficiencies in TSCA on the federal level, this has led to a patchwork of state laws that has contributed to burdensome compliance issues and uncertainty for businesses.

H.R. 2576 would remedy such compliance issues by providing for a more cohesive national chemical regulatory program that gives businesses and states a new level of certainty with regards to interstate commerce. The Act would also provide for state interests by allowing states to act if the EPA does not.   

The time has come for lawmakers in Congress to act to update and improve the Toxic Substances Control Act. For too long TSCA provisions have gone wanting, however the TSCA Modernization Act (H.R. 2576) now offers a bipartisan solution to reforming this outdated legislation.      


Photo Credit: Arend

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Post Office Continues Long History of Hemorrhaging Money

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, May 29th, 2015, 3:45 PM PERMALINK

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” can keep Postal Service bureaucrats from continuing to lose billions.  This month the United States Postal Service (USPS) posted it’s second quarter finances for 2015, suffering a net loss of $1.5 billion in just three months. Yet losses aside, what is most concerning is how a government-backed monopoly receiving $18 billion annually in taxpayer-backed subsidies continues to flounder financially and why it has been allowed to do so for so long.

Sadly the $1.5 billion lost from January to March is just the tip of the financial iceberg. During the same period last year net losses were actually higher at $1.9 billion. While this change could appear to some as an improvement, it is actually an incremental part of a much larger trend of financial despair that has plagued the Post Office for years.

The most recent second quarter losses mean the Post Office has now consecutively posted revenue losses 24 out of the last 26 quarters. Such an economically dismal start also puts the USPS on schedule to make 2015 the 9th consecutive year in which they have suffered multi-billion dollar losses.

In 2014 USPS found that “its total liabilities were $67.16 billion…compared with $23.16 billion in assets.” Thus it is no surprise analysts estimate the Post Office has seen over $47 billion in losses over the last decade. However, as outrageous as the losses themselves are, the USPS’s suggestions for reducing the revenue gap are even more ridiculous.

For instance, since last year USPS has actually been beta testing an amazingly illogical grocery delivery scheme in San Francisco. Additionally, just last week the USPS’s Office of Inspector General published a white paper suggesting that the Post Office could raise needed revenue by expanding it’s services to banking. Admittedly the last institution any rational consumer would want handling their finances is an institution that can’t handle it’s own finances.   

The ironic aspect of these revenue schemes is that a government entity is trying to raise revenue by expanding non-core related services (groceries and banking) in order to make up revenue losses from its core services (mail delivery). This is the literal equivalent of trying to put out a fire with gasoline.        

A more logical approach to improving the Post Office’s financial failures would be common sense reforms such as increasing spending transparency and accounting as well as simply focusing on the primary service it was created to provide – mail delivery.

Yet until action is taken on Capitol Hill to examine the financial shortcomings of the Postal Service, the only thing Americans can expect to be on time each year is increased waste and billions more being lost.  


Photo Credit: Brian Hefele  

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USPS Delivers Dubious Grocery and Banking Proposals to Taxpayers

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 4:47 PM PERMALINK

According to a white paper released last week by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), USPS is now considering expanding its services to banking in a last ditch effort to raise revenue. This announcement follows close on the heels of the USPS’s recent illogical efforts to expand services into grocery delivery.

For years the Postal Service’s finances have been in dire straights. The USPS reported second quarter losses this year of $1.5 billion marking the 24th quarter out of the past 26 they have posted massive revenue losses. They have additionally posted multi-billion dollar losses the last 8 years, signaling an inherent inability to efficiently manage the finances of the primary service it is charged with – delivering the mail.

Logically, one would think choosing to expand services to banking and grocery delivery could be a financial nail in the coffin given the USPS’s inability to keep their core mail delivery service out of the red. However the bureaucratic mindset seldom finds itself in the company of logic.

Thus instead of working to increase financial efficiency and decrease waste in existing services, the Postal Service is proposing to gamble taxpayer dollars away on revenue schemes well outside the purview of delivering mail.

For instance in the recently released white paper titled The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services, the OIG suggests possibly expanding services to handing out loans, check cashing and even creating its own “full-fledged post bank.”

The USPS has also started beta testing a grocery delivery service in San Francisco meaning they are now competing against actual hard working entrepreneurs and businesses. However, unlike their competitors USPS is not susceptible to free market forces thanks to government backing, essentially making them “too bureaucratic to fail.”  

Not only do such practices disrupt the market and disregard the basic free market principles America was founded on but will also leave taxpayers holding the bag for the Postal Service’s future failures. 

Until lawmakers take action to reign in and reform the financial recklessness with which the USPS operates taxpayers can only expect billions more of their hard earned dollars to be wasted.     

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Top Five Reasons Congress Should Lift the Ban on Crude Exports

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 2:57 PM PERMALINK

Since the early 1970s the U.S. has had a ban in place on the export of crude oil. The ban was originally enacted to protect the U.S. supply of crude in response to decades of declining domestic production and issues in the international oil market during the 1970s.

Yet in recent years these concerns have become obsolete as the U.S. is now experiencing a renaissance in the production of crude thanks in part to improvements in extraction and exploration methods. In fact since 2008 U.S. crude output has increased a whopping 64 percent.

This massive increase in crude production has the potential to: reduce U.S. gas prices; create hundreds of thousands of new jobs; increase GDP; increase household incomes; and reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

However all of these benefits are contingent on whether Congress will act to lift the decades old ban on crude exports.          

1. Lower U.S. Gas Prices. Lifting the export ban would increase global crude supplies, in turn lowering global prices. Lower global prices would put downward pressure on domestic prices reducing the price Americans pay at the pump. A recent IHS report found lifting the ban would reduce gasoline prices 8 cents a gallon thereby saving drivers $265 billion over the next 15 years.        

2. Job Creation. As a result of increased economic activity from lifting the ban, average U.S. job creation is projected to reach up to 859,000 new jobs. Additionally, U.S. job creation resulting from lifting the ban is estimated to peak in 2018 at between 1 million and 1.5 million new jobs.

3. Increase Economic Growth. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found lifting the ban would increase the “size of the economy…employment, investment, public revenue, and trade.” This finding was echoed by similar studies that project lifting the ban would increase U.S. GDP by $73 billion in 2016 with an additional increase of $134 billion in 2018.     

4. Increase Household Income.  Due to the increased investment, job creation and low gasoline prices resulting from lifting the ban on crude exports, average disposable income per household would increase by $391 in 2018. A recent study by the Aspen Institute further found that real household income would increase up to $3,000 per household by 2025. 

5. Reduce U.S. Trade Deficit. Allowing crude exports would also have a profound and positive impact on the U.S. trade deficit.  Lifting the crude export ban would contribute to expanded U.S. exports. Such expansion is projected to narrow the U.S. trade deficit by $22.3 billion in 2020 through increased international trade of U.S. crude.   


Photo Credit: Bridget Coila

Photo Credit: 
Bridget Coila

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Federal Gas Tax Hike would Hurt Consumers and Encourage Overspending

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, May 14th, 2015, 1:50 PM PERMALINK

Just when American motorists thought it affordable to get back on the highways this summer, some Washington lawmakers are calling for massive increases to the federal gas tax. While there is currently a highway-funding gap, the answer is not to raise taxes but to reign in waste. Increasing the gas tax will not only worsen Washington’s spending problem, but will have American taxpayers picking up the tab.

Currently the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and revenue from the tax goes into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).  The HTF was originally created with the goal of financing and maintaining the nation’s highway systems. However in recent years HTF funds have increasingly been siphoned off to fund everything from bike paths to landscaping and -- most infamously -- squirrel sanctuaries.

Overspending on non-highway related projects has gotten so bad that spending of HTF funds is outpacing revenue from the gas tax. In fact the federal government spends roughly $50 billion annually while the gas tax only brings in around $34 billion each year. As a result, Congress has repeatedly had to add short term funding patches to maintain the HTF, with the most recent set to expire May 31st of this year.

With the looming May 31st deadline lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution, with some calling for an increase in the gas tax of up to 80%. One doesn’t have to be an economist to realize that the solution to overspending is not to increase the amount of money that politicians and bureaucrats have to overspend. Such a massive increase comes on the backs of taxpayers and avoids addressing the issue of overspending altogether.

Instead lawmakers should be looking to improve the fiscal responsibility with which HTF funds are spent, ensuring the funds go to what they were originally intended – the highways. For instance since 2008, federal spending on side projects has increased 38% while highway spending has remained flat. In fact using gas tax revenue to pay solely for highways would make the “HTF 98% solvent for the next decade” without increasing taxes.      

Additionally, increasing the gas tax would hit low to middle-income Americans the hardest. Most Americans are currently enjoying increased discretionary income each month due to historically low gas prices. When Americans have more to spend that extra income benefits the economy as a whole. Yet if some in Washington have their way that extra income would instead go to Uncle Sam where it would likely fund more wasteful spending on non-highway related projects.        

It’s clear there is a need for a solution to the inherent lack of fiscal responsibility in the way HTF funds are spent, a solution that doesn’t work to the benefit of government bureaucrats at the expense of American taxpayers. Thus it should also be clear to lawmakers that increasing the gas tax to pay for their fiscal transgressions is outrageously irresponsible, would reduce the discretionary income of millions of hardworking Americans and is simply not the answer. 

Photo Credit: Drew Stephens

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Sen. Inhofe’s EPA Employment Impact Analysis Act Holds the EPA Accountable

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, April 7th, 2014, 12:30 PM PERMALINK

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, introduced SB 2161 last week to rein in the EPA and ensure future EPA regulations are enacted in a responsible manner.

The EPA Employment Impact Analysis Act would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct an economic impact analysis on current air regulations before future ones may be enacted. An economic impact analysis is already required under the Clean Air Act; however the EPA has never once actually complied with the mandated procedure.

Pursuant to Section 321(a) of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to report how current air regulations are affecting job creation in the United States. “The EPA has not once abided by this provision and failed to complete a single analysis on its air rules to date."This fact is not only an egregious violation of the EPA’s own policy but is also concerning given the widespread impact EPA regulations have on the U.S. economy.

Senator Inhofe’s bill would simply require the EPA to follow its own procedures as outlined in the Clean Air Act. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the EPA from “finalizing any major regulation until the agency analyzes the economic impact of its current air regulations as required under Section 321(a) of the Clean Air Act.” Essentially the EPA would have to consider the effects current regulations are having on the economy before justifying the creation of future regulations.  

The problem is the Obama EPA has implemented costly regulations while failing to maintain research on any effects of such regulations on the U.S. economy. Inhofe cites a number of examples where “the EPA concluded that a regulation would result in the creation of jobs, yet the National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting firm…reported that the same regulation would result in thousands of job losses.” Senator Inhofe cites 3 specific examples in support of the bill:

  • Utility MACT rule (77 Fed. Reg. 9301): EPA's analysis of the Utility MACT rule estimated that implementation of the final rule would result in the creation of 46,000 temporary construction jobs and 8,000 net new permanent jobs. NERA's whole economy analysis found that the rule would have a negative impact on the income of workers in an amount equivalent to 180,000 to 215,000 lost jobs in 2014, and 50,000 to 85,000 lost jobs each year thereafter. 
  • Cross State Air Pollution rule (76 Fed. Reg. 48208): The EPA’s analysis of the Cross State Air Pollution rule estimated that implementation of the final rule would result in the creation of 700 jobs per year. NERA ‘s whole economy analysis found that the rule would result in the elimination of a total of 34,000 jobs from 2013 to 2037.
  • Boiler MACT rule (76 Fed. Reg. 15608): EPA’s analysis of the Boiler MACT rule estimated that implementation of the final rule would result in the creation of 2,200 jobs per year. NERA’s whole economy analysis found that the rule would result in the elimination of 28,000 jobs per year from 2013 to 2037. 

The discrepancies between the EPA’s projected effects of such regulations on the economy and the actual amount of jobs lost is mind boggling. All in all NERA’s analysis of the economic impact of the three regulations cited above found the regulations together would likely kill 2,876,000 million jobs by 2037. The almost three million job losses projected by NERA strongly contrasts the job creation numbers projected by the EPA. It must also be pointed out that the aforementioned examples are only three EPA regulations out of the multitude of EPA regulations currently in place.      

If the EPA had been adhering to its own procedures and analyzing the effects of regulations as required by the Clean Air Act hundreds of thousands of jobs as of 2014 could have been saved. Senator Inhofe’s bill would ensure that the EPA monitors and reports on the effects of its own regulations so failed regulations do not continue to have detrimental impacts on the American economy. 

Simply put, Senator Inhofe’s bill would save jobs, taxpayer dollars and ensure the EPA enacts responsible regulations.

Photo Credit: 
Moms Clean Air Force https://www.flickr.com/photos/momscleanairforce/

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