Thompson Times November Newsletter (2010)

Oct 27, 2010

Can’t Get the Votes? Then Obama Says Regulate

The Obama Administration may be slowing down on trying to push legislation through Congress, particularly if the election brings more Republicans to the House. But they are not slowing their agenda.
 
Rather than debate the issues with Congress, the Obama administration is choosing to implement some of the changes it wants through regulation, executive order and rulemaking.
 
First up may be a version of Cap and Trade. That bill was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels in the next ten years by replacing coal, oil and natural gas with renewable energy production such as wind and solar. The purpose of the Cap and Trade legislation is to increase the cost of coal, oil and natural gas to the point of forcing us to use renewables.
 
The problem is that there are no renewables available that to any meaningful extent can take the place of coal, oil and natural gas, which produce 85 % of our energy. The result, Americans will pay a penalty for their use of needed carbon-based fuels. Similar legislation in California is estimated to cost each household an additional $4,000 per year with little effect on air quality or CO2 emissions. While a Cap and Trade measure passed the House, it has had no movement in the Senate.
 
So because of the stalemate in Congress, the Obama Administration through the Environmental Protection Agency plans to use the Clean Air Act to begin lowering emissions. Last December the Agency announced that six gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, pose a danger to the environment. EPA plans to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories and other facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide. Yes, the stuff you breathe out when you exhale.
 
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute said of the EPA proposed regulations, “This action poses a threat to every American family and business if it leads to regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.” He said the regulations would be excessively costly.
 
Thus a version of Cap and Trade, that will raise energy costs for every American, is on its way without any approval by Congress.
 
In September the President realized that Elizabeth Warren, his nominee for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was too controversial to make it through the confirmation process. So instead, he appointed her as an assistant to the President and a “special adviser” to the Treasury Secretary. She will have oversight over the creation of the bureau that was set up by the Wall Street reform bill.
 
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been called one of the most powerful bureaucratic positions ever created in the American system. It can ban or regulate most consumer credit products but it does not fall within the purview of Congress because its budget is guaranteed as a percentage of the Federal Reserve’s annual revenues. So the bureau will not come under the auspices of Congress—nor did its “special adviser.”
 
A similar thing happened when the President realized his pick for the National Labor Relations Board, (NLRB), labor lawyer Craig Becker, could not be confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Becker was the top lawyer for the Service Employees International Union, SEIU. So in March, President Obama gave Becker a recess appointment, thus avoiding the pesky confirmation process.
 
Now Mr. Becker has suggested that the NLRB has the power to impose card check, another measure that has been unsuccessful before the Congress.
 
Card check is a process whereby the secret ballot is eliminated in union elections. It would allow a workplace to be organized if 50 percent of workers at the site sign a union card.   This is a poor substitute for a secret ballot. In fact, if card check is so popular among unions, labor leaders should be able to let the workers vote to ratify or reject a card-check process without outside interference. Instead the unions want it done by the rule of law or regulation. And it looks as if Mr. Becker is prepared to push his point of view through the NLRB.
 
The President has suggested putting millions of acres of grasslands in northeastern Montana into monument status.   Use of the Antiquities Act allows the president to declare a monument without congressional input, but simply by presidential proclamation. There is a 21 page memo from the Bureau of Land Management under the Department of the Interior, delineating the proposal for the 2.5-million-acre area in Montana.
 
Finally, I have talked about this before, but the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is changing the rules for restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania is among the states that are part of an existing agreement with existing guidelines.  But, the EPA is proposing additional regulations, which, if implemented will place deadlines and caps on the amount of pollution that can be discharged into rivers and streams. The regulations call for 25 percent reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus and at least a 16 percent reduction in sediment that can be discharged in the Bay and its tributaries.
 
If this proposal goes through, our local governments will be required to pay for the implementation of these new and unfunded mandates. Our water and sewage treatment facilities will have to be upgraded in some cases and our farmers will be affected as well.

I have cosponsored H.R. 5099, a bill that essentially codifies the existing agreement among the states, while offering incentive based programs. We should not be loading unfunded mandates on the backs of our communities and our farmers.