Justin Sykes

ATR Supports Rep. Johnson's Legislation (H.R. 4557) to Block EPA Regulatory Interference

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, February 29th, 2016, 12:14 PM PERMALINK


This week the U.S. House of Representative is expected to consider legislation to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not allowed to pre-emptively subject another American industry to costly and burdensome regulations until legal challenges have been resolved. ATR supports this legislation and urges all members to vote YES on the bill.

H.R. 4557, the “Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act of 2016,” sponsored by Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) will protect the U.S. brick industry from being forced to comply with the Brick Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) air quality issued by the EPA, until judicial challenges to the rule are resolved. 

The brick industry was previously damaged by such regulations when the EPA enacted similar rules under the Brick MACT in 2003. While the 2003 rule was subsequently thrown out in court, the industry had already wasted millions in compliance costs and investments. 

H.R. 4557 would prevent such a scenario from again impacting the industry, by setting a compliance date for the final Brick MACT rule until after judicial challenges are completed and after any subsequent final rule is issued.

The common sense protections afforded under H.R. 4557 would protect this vital American industry from forced and costly compliance with a rule that may later be thrown out. ATR urges a Yes vote on the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act.   

Photo credit: Christina Castro

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ATR Supports The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, February 12th, 2016, 9:13 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform today expressed support for H.R. 2017, “The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act”, being offered by Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). H.R. 2017 would stand in stark contrast to the White House menu-labeling law, the language of which is overly broad, and increases the regulatory burden and compliance costs through enhanced bureaucratic red tape. 

The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to revise the nutritional information that restaurants and retail food establishments must disclose. Doing so would protect restaurants and related businesses of all sizes from the ever-growing regulatory burden created by the President and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

In 2015 the FDA released expansive new regulations in a one-size-fits all regulatory approach that will have a disproportionate impact on smaller, and medium sized businesses. Under the new regulations, the FDA created a broad and expansive new definition of “menu” that requires any food industry related materials that contain a photo of an item and a phone number to be considered a menu.

The compliance costs inherent in this expanded definition will be too much for smaller and medium size restaurants and related businesses to absorb. These increased costs have led some larger restaurants and chains to advocate in support of the FDA rules, as the increased compliance burden will likely offer a competitive advantage. 

Americans for Tax Reform believes Congress should work towards increased and fair competition in the market place, and urges lawmakers to support H.R. 2017. Doing so will ensure that the FDA and Obama Administration’s costly policies do not create a crony capitalistic regime that disadvantages small, medium, and growing businesses in the industry.    

 

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Logic Prevails, Supreme Court Blocks Obama's Carbon Rule

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 10th, 2016, 8:40 AM PERMALINK


The Supreme Court dealt a major blow this week to President Obama’s climate legacy and his aggressive regulatory regime. The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of staying the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (Carbon Rule), meaning the rule cannot take effect while legal challenges are ongoing.

The stay by SCOTUS prevents the EPA from enforcing the carbon rule until lower courts decide on challenges brought by a number of states and industry groups that have alleged President Obama and the EPA exceeded their authority. The ruling confirms what many opponents of the President’s carbon rule already new: that the rule exemplified federal overreach; would be catastrophic for states and the economy; and was premised on backwards and illogical legal grounds. 

As Harvard Law Professor and Obama mentor Laurence Tribe has stated, the rule “lacks legal basis” and “is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority.” The court obviously realized just how disastrous this rule would be for the country, while at the same time having little to no impact on the environment. 

The President’s Carbon rule represents the worst of federal overreach, and would have sent electricity rates soaring by double digits in over 40 states. The rule was also projected to kill thousands of jobs, potentially pushing integral industries to look for lower energy prices, potentially overseas.

The ruling by SCOTUS blocking the carbon rule prevents an economically disastrous outcome, much like what was seen with the recent mercury rule. In Michigan v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA’s Mercury regulation was legally unsound. However roughly 40 gigawatts of generating capacity had been prematurely shut down in response to the rule despite the fact the legal challenges had not yet been resolved.

To begin implementing the new carbon rule before legal resolution would have repeated the mistakes of the past, destroyed thousands of jobs, and cost millions in wasted taxpayer dollars. The ruling by the Supreme Court this week is a victory not just for the states and American economy, but also a victory for basic common sense and logic. 

 

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SEC Taking Heat on...Climate Change?

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016, 9:54 AM PERMALINK


Recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has come under fire for it’s handling of climate change disclosures with regard to SEC filings. At first blush one would assume very limited, if any, justification for considering the science of climate change in SEC filings…and this assumption would be logical.

So why is the SEC being pressured to require disclosures on climate science in filings by companies, that for the most, are not nor have been engaged in the field of climate science? The issue arose in 2010, when the SEC proposed “interpretive guidance” on existing disclosure requirements with regard to climate science. To be clear, the SEC did not issue a disclosure rule, simply “guidance” most likely the result of outside influence from extreme idealist and the government.

Given that most companies filing SEC disclosures are not climate scientist, and are not likely engaged in climate science research, the “guidance” went somewhat unheeded. In fact, the SEC has seemed to agree for the most part with reluctance to follow up on the issue.

In the two years following the release of the interpretive guidance, the SEC issued over 40 comment letters to companies addressing climate change disclosure. Yet that number dropped significantly with only three letters issue in 2012 and zero issued in 2013. 

The most logical reason being that the SEC came to realize that such disclosures find little company in basic logic, and the agency’s time is better spent on its core mission, instead of serving the ideological musings of the extreme left. Just the same these outside pressures have reared their misguided head again, recently pushing an agency charged with holding expertise on securities laws to expand to climate science.

The SEC should take comfort in the fact that such a push for climate science based disclosures in securities filings sounds, as far outside the scope of SEC functions to most as it does the agency itself. One can only hope the SEC stands strong, sending a message to other federal agencies, that serving core policy goals, and not outside ideologies is the goal. 

 

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ATR Urges Opposition to King-Reid Net-Metering Amendment

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, February 1st, 2016, 4:38 PM PERMALINK


This week Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plan to offer an amendment to the “Energy Policy and Modernization Act” that would expand federal control over the states and infringe upon the power of state authorities to make decisions regarding energy policy. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges opposition to this amendment to protect state sovereignty and halt further expansion of the federal government’s power. 

The King-Reid amendment would establish stringent federal standards dictating how each state may operate their net metering programs. Net metering policies vary by state, but in general electric utilities are required to purchase excess electricity generated by customers with rooftop solar installations at the full retail rate as opposed to wholesale. As result, solar customers avoid paying for many of the fixed costs of the grid, and thus these fixed costs are shifted onto non-solar customers.  

The new federal standards imposed by the King-Reid amendment, such as requiring extensive evidentiary hearings, would thus act as a new legislative barrier to states seeking to address the cost-shifting dilemma. 

This amendment would effectively take such decision making ability away from the states and give it to the federal government. Furthermore, the King-Reid amendment would only work to further the practice of forcing non-solar customers to subsidize net-metered customers.

States, rural electric cooperatives, and certain localities are undoubtedly in a much better position than the federal government to make decisions about state energy policy. The states are already reeling from a slew of regulations put forth by President Obama, such as the Clean Power Plan, that empower federal regulators at the expense of state sovereignty.

ATR urges lawmakers this week to oppose the King-Reid amendment, and instead vote to protect state sovereignty and to stop the further expansion of the federal government’s power over the states. 

 

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ATR Supports Rep. Scalise's Resolution Opposing a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, January 29th, 2016, 4:08 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist sent the following letter to Congress this week, urging support for House Concurrent Resolution 89, sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). Concurrent Resolution 89 expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States. 

Below is the full text of the letter:

January 28, 2016

Dear Majority Whip Scalise

Americans for Tax Reform strongly supports your leadership in the fight against any form of a carbon tax.          

I urge all members of Congress to support and vote for your House Concurrent Resolution 89, which puts Congress on the record in opposition to a Carbon Tax. 

A carbon tax would kill jobs in the United States, reduce economic growth and set the state for future tax hikes.

A carbon tax is a VAT or Value Added Tax on training wheels.  Any carbon tax would inevitably be spread out over wider and wider parts of the economy until we had a European Value Added Tax.      

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers found a carbon tax would: have a negative effect on consumption, investment and jobs; increase the cost of coal, natural gas and petroleum products thus resulting in higher production costs and less spending on non-energy goods; and lead to lower real wage rates, lower labor productivity, and decrease workers’ incomes. 

Americans for Tax Reform encourages all members of Congress to vote for House Concurrent Resolution 89.

Thank you Congressman for your continued strong leadership in protecting Americans from a carbon tax today and forever. 

Sincerely,                                

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                    

Americans for Tax Reform

PDF link to letter

Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond

 

 

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President Obama’s Methane Rule Threatens to Stymie U.S. Energy Growth and Innovation

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


In 2015 President Obama and his EPA cronies unveiled a plethora of new regulations that will surely send energy costs skyrocketing and stymie the ongoing renaissance in U.S. energy development. Regulations such as the Clean Power Plan, Ozone Standard, and the Waters of the U.S. Rule all pose a threat to efficient and affordable energy. On top of these costly new rules, President Obama will use the EPA in 2016 to once again impose his regulatory agenda on the American consumer and energy industry.

For 2016 the EPA is set to push new regulations to cut methane emissions once again targeting the already overregulated energy industry. According to the EPA’s own estimates, this new rule will cost $180 to $200 million in 2020, with costs possibly reaching $500 million in 2025.

To achieve its goal, the EPA is expanding its regulatory powers over a vast array of equipment not previously under its control. Under the EPA’s expanded powers, energy producers will be forced to install highly expensive equipment on new operations, the costs of which will inevitably be passed onto consumers in the form of higher energy rates.

These new rules would especially harm the boom in natural gas production the U.S. has experienced, which has created huge economic growth in the past few years. In 2012 alone the industry boosted the economy by $284 billion and supported over 2 million jobs. The new set of EPA rules threatens to stymie such momentous economic growth.

The EPA’s methane rule is quite simply a regulation for regulations sake. According to the President’s own EPA, the U.S. natural gas industry has successfully cut methane emissions by 11 percent in recent years, even as gas production has increased 44%. During that same period methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down 79 percent.  

The industry has accomplished these reductions through investment and innovation in new technology. Because of such innovation, researchers estimate that less than 2% of methane is lost during natural gas production. 

However by seeking to impose new methane rules on the industry, the President and EPA will effectively deter further innovation and improvement by the energy industry. Such government overreach and intervention in the market will interrupt the drive to continue these advances by diverting attention away from innovation back towards regulatory compliance.   

The energy industry is complex and varies greatly across different operations. The industry’s efforts to reduce methane emissions, without directly regulating methane, dwarf the emission reductions EPA has estimated in their rules. The bureaucrats at the EPA simply cannot match the expertise and knowledge of industry experts.

Lawmakers should be aware that the President’s regulatory agenda, in particular the new methane rule, is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at preserving his personal legacy at the expense of the consumers and the American economy. 

 

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FWS Finds Obama’s Carbon Rule Remains a Threat to Manatee Populations

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, January 18th, 2016, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) started off 2016 by removing the manatee from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) designation of “endangered” to the lesser designation of “threatened.” In a notice in the Federal Register published after the announcement, the FWS noted that manatee populations have seen gains such that there is a “very low percentage chance of this animal going extinct in the next 100 years.” However, the FWS noted one of the more pressing threats to the manatee resurgence would come from President Obama’s carbon regulations under the Clean Power Plan.

It’s no secret the President’s carbon regulations will force the premature retirement of coal-fired power plants across the U.S. In fact the President seems wholly indifferent to the thousands of jobs and livelihoods he’s destroying. However what the President and EPA did not count on is that some of the power plants that will be shuttered are integral to the survival of hundreds of Florida manatees.   

The issue stems from the fact that the warm-water discharge from some Florida coal-fired power plants, such as Florida’s Big Bend Power Station, has become home to hundreds of West Indian manatees. The manatees are drawn to the warm-water discharge for a nearly six-month period in the winter.

The FWS’s notice on the manatee’s new ESA designation stated, “Within the Southeastern United States, the potential loss of warm water at power plants…used by wintering manatees is identified as a significant threat.” The FWS went on to point out that “addressing the pending loss of warm water habitat from power plant discharges remains a priority activity needed to achieve recovery.”

The FWS’s concerns are echoed in a 2013 study on manatee habitat loss, which found “Experience with past shut-downs of power plant and industrial outfalls suggest that a potentially large portion of manatees accustomed to using them will remain near those sites rather than move long distances to find a comparable site.” The study went on to state that “unless another suitable refuge is nearby…many are likely to sustain high rates of cold-stress death when plants close” and thus “plant retirements are recognized as a significant long-term threat to Florida manatees.”       

In drafting the Clean Power Plan, the neither President nor EPA took these impacts into consideration as would otherwise be required under the Endangered Species Act. “This is troubling for the manatee, but even more disturbing is the possibility that the Obama administration would strategically disregard the law when it serves their interests or the President’s legacy,” said Julia Bell, press secretary for the House Natural Resources Committee.

The EPA has deflected charges the Agency failed to take into account the impact on certain endangered species like the Florida manatee, instead arguing the choice to close such power plants will be left to the states. However this argument holds little water given the Clean Power Plan’s compliance standards leave states with almost no “choice” but to shutter the plants.

While the outcome of this dilemma is still unclear, what is overwhelmingly clear is that nothing, not the destruction of thousands of people’s livelihoods or even the Endangered Species Act, will prevent the President from doing what he has to do to preserve his legacy.    

 

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Obama Denies Keystone yet Pledges U.S. Support for Similar Pipeline in Kenya

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, January 15th, 2016, 10:30 AM PERMALINK


Throughout President Obama’s presidency it has been charged that more often than not his policies are derived from pressure by special interests and an unwavering need to preserve his “legacy”, while ignoring the actual outcome and realities on the ground. For instance the President’s carbon rule, which will increase energy rates and destroy thousands of jobs, but will have little to no actual environmental benefits according to his own EPA. 

As hypocritical as some of President Obama’s past policies have been, his most recent actions with regard to energy development evidence a new level of hypocrisy that calls into question the motivation behind one his biggest energy blunders…denying the Keystone XL pipeline.      

In denying the Keystone plan, President Obama cited environmental concerns stating that in order to preserve the environmental integrity of the Earth, “we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them.” However it seems the President’s hypocrisy on energy knows no bounds, as just last week his administration pledged that the U.S. would help Kenya raise US$18 billion to finance a 900 km pipeline that is eerily similar to the Keystone XL pipeline he denied a few months before.   

According to recent reports, U.S. ambassador, Robert Godec, met last week with Kenyan energy secretary Alfred Keter to discuss building the Kenyan pipeline. Godec stated that “Kenya needs $18 billion worth of financing” for the pipeline, and “one of the questions we are discussing is how we can work together with the private sector and governments…to make certain that this financing becomes available.” 

In agreeing to work with the Kenyan government to help finance the project it appears the Obama Administration has actually proven that the so-called “environmental concerns” it cited in denying the Keystone XL were nothing more than a political farce to appease green interests groups. The fact is the proposed pipeline in Kenya would run through the Great Rift Valley, an area much more sensitive than the proposed Keystone path as it is home to a number of endangered species.

By denying Keystone President Obama also snubbed his nose at the potential for job creation and economic development the KXL would provide to the U.S. As Kelly McParland of the National Post reported in a recent column, “while Obama insisted that pipeline [KXL] construction creates no significant number of jobs, the Kenya project is held up as an important job-creation initiative.”

One does not have to be a political scholar to note just how politically unsavory and hypocritical President Obama’s attitude toward these two similar projects has been. It is all to clear the President is willing to deny economic development at home based on truly unjustified and politically charged reasons, while at the same time pledging U.S. support for similar development abroad, all in the name of saving face with American special interests. 

 

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ATR Supports Sen. Paul's "Audit the Fed" Legislation

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016, 10:23 AM PERMALINK


Today, Congress is scheduled to vote on the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, commonly referred to as the “Audit the Fed” legislation (H.R. 24/S. 264), introduced by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

In a December 2015 press release announcing today’s vote on the Audit the Fed legislation, Sen. Paul expressed his concern that the Federal Reserve is “operating under a cloak of secrecy” and “the American people have a right to know exactly how Washington is spending their money.”  Sen. Paul hopes the legislation would end the Fed’s unchecked authority and control over U.S. financial markets and the economy.

The bill introduced by Sen. Paul would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to commence and complete an audit of the Fed’s Board of Governor’s and of the Federal Reserve Banks within 12 months of enactment. The bill provides that the findings of the audit are to be reported to Congress within 90 days of completion, and also provides for a repeal of existing limitations on such an audit.

Sen. Paul’s bill currently has 34 co-sponsors in the Senate and 185 in the House. Today’s vote will be a positive first step in ensuring government accountability in one of the country’s most important sectors.

Americans for Tax Reform urges lawmakers in the House and Senate to support Sen. Paul’s “Audit the Fed” legislation in order to preserve the government’s financial accountability to the American people, and ensure the integrity and transparency of the Federal Reserve.  

 

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