Eagle Forum of Alabama finds that SB302 and HB487 are bad policy and will not properly address important public policy issues within Alabama’s prisons and infrastructure.
In the last two weeks of the Alabama legislative session, there are two bills that will have profound and lasting effects on the pocketbooks of Alabama taxpayers. The gas tax (HB487), if passed, would be a $300 million tax increase—the largest tax increase in Alabama in modern times. The other (SB302) is the prison bill. We need to address both the prison and infrastructure issues realistically with pay as we go measures that require transparency, accountability, and a vote of the people.
Instead, the legislature is about to be asked to pass (1)The $2.4 billion bond issue for transportation and (2) the now $845 million prison bill. These two measures together equal at least a 50% increase in state indebtedness.
First, on Tuesday a SUBSTITUTE VERSION of Gov. Bentley’s PRISON BILL that increases bonding from $800 million to $845 million is being dropped in committee. It has NOT been posted. See Eagle Forum’s prior analysis here. Does the bill address the immediate need of medical care and mental health care? Are competitive bids required? Will prisons be moved from communities that now depend on them for employment? Does new construction now address overcrowding? Citizens won’t know if objections that stalled Gov. Bentley’s plan have been alleviated until after the committee vote, but it is certain that the cost has been increased, not cut. Therefore, Alabama taxpayers would be saddled with an ultimate cost of well over $1.5 billion over at least 30 years. See prison recommendations here.
Second, the Alabama Legislature is considering the largest tax increase in modern history in the form of a transportation bill that calls for $2.4 billion in highway bonds without a vote of the people. This can accurately be called the largest tax increase on Alabamians in modern history because it amounts to $300 million a year in perpetuity. There is no sunset.
Thankfully, the Speaker of the House has assured the people of Alabama that the gas tax (HB487) would not come back up this session. Please thank Speaker McCutcheon for his commitment and ask him to continue to resist attempts to ram HB487 through. There are sound alternatives being proposed for future action.
Please contact your state representatives to let them know that you do NOT support the gigantic bond issues for prisons or roads. Ask them to look at sound alternatives!
Alabama has joined twenty-four other states in filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit brought against the EPA to require delay of the imposition of the Utility MACT rule. The Rule is expected to go into effect in early November and has the potential to cost the utility industry billions of dollars and could lead to the closure of plants and the loss of jobs, at a time when our state and nation can ill afford it.
From the Decatur Daily:
State Attorney General Luther Strange said today that Alabama has joined 24 other states and Guam in filing a brief in U.S. District Court in Washington to require the Environmental Protection Agency to delay air emissions regulations, claiming the new rule could damage Alabama jobs and electricity rates.
The EPA’s proposed Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule would create a new federal regulation to address emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil-fired power plants.
The proposed rule may require installation of new expensive control technologies to meet the new limits mandated by the EPA.
You can read more about the Utility MACT rule and its potential effect on the utility industry here and here.
The Hill’s Energy & Environment Blog covers the EPA’s decision to review dozens of regulations to ensure they are not overly burdensome.
EPA’s final regulatory review plan comes amid growing GOP animosity toward the agency. Republicans and some centrist Democrats have cast EPA as the poster child of federal overreach and excessive regulation, pushing legislation to delay or block a slew of the agency’s rules.
EPA will review 35 regulations under the final plan. Sixteen of those rules will be reviewed quickly, a process that could lead to “modifying, streamlining, expanding or repealing a regulation or related program during the 2011 calendar year,” EPA says. EPA will review the other 19 regulations over a longer time period.
The EPA says its goal is to reduce the regulatory burden and save money. They also say they will be reviewing the regulations every five years.
Many in Congress have complained that the President has used regulatory agencies to implement policies that he cannot get through the legislative process. In fact, one of the top priorities for conservatives this fall is Senator Rand Paul’s REINS Act which requires all major regulations to be voted on by Congress before being enforced.
Earlier this month, the EPA announced the implementation of new pollution standards–standards which will result in higher electricity costs for consumers in more than two dozen states. The rule, called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will require power plants in the eastern half of the U.S. to make major reductions in soot and smog by forcing them to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide by 73% and nitrogen oxide by 54% from 2005 levels by 2014.
The time table for the requirements has caused some concern in the industry:
The EPA rule has generated anxiety in the coal industry partly because some of its emissions targets will take effect in January, a timetable that the companies say gives them too little time to prepare.
A spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based Southern Co., one of the nation’s largest coal-burning utilities and a critic of the proposed version of the EPA rule, called the agency’s compliance deadlines “unreasonable, unnecessary and disruptive.”
The end result of the new regulations–your electricity bill will go up.
Note: This is not the first time the EPA has set policy essentially going around Congress and the legislative process. When President Obama could not get Cap and Trade through Congress, he turned to the EPA to impose it through regulations. Now, the EPA has decided to set new pollution standards and they’ve got a plan to get them in place:
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) believes that U.S. EPA has worked out a nifty way to make an end run around both Congress and the federal regulatory process when it wants to implement a new rule that may be politically sensitive.
All the agency has to do is get some green group to sue over some aspect of the desired rule, he said. Then EPA can roll over in the ensuing legal battle and head right to settlement proceedings, claiming it was “forced” by the court system and consent decrees to initiate the new rulemaking. It is a path devoid of both messy public comment periods and political accusations over whether EPA is moving unilaterally.
Today’s Morning Bell from The Heritage Foundation covers President Obama’s decision to release more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
When it comes to making bad energy policy decisions, President Obama is a pro. Yesterday was no exception when the Obama Administration announced it would release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). This is part of an agreement with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to put a total of 60 million barrels on the market in the next 30 days. Another 27 nations will make up the other half of the oil needed.
President Obama and the IEA first explained this irresponsible action by noting a supply disruption as a result of the war in Libya. However, this disruption does not justify the depletion of the SPR, and the Administration doesn’t have the legal rationale, either. The White House slightly changed its tune late yesterday when Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters it was meant as protection against increasing gas prices over the summer driving season.
Unfortunately, the President has a long history of poor decisions when it comes to energy policy. From his support for Cap and Trade to his stand on domestic drilling, he has put in place policies that cause energy prices to rise for all Americans.
Americans for Prosperity has released a new paper detailing how the EPA can circumvent the democratic process and force cap and trade on Americans.
According to their press release:
The paper—entitled: Of Elephants and Mouseholes: How EPA Could Revive Cap-and-Trade—examines the statutory structure of the Clean Air Act and identifies two existing programs that EPA could contort to enact a GHG cap-and-trade program. The paper also includes a discussion of how cap-and-trade allows the EPA’s regulations to reach much further and accomplish more expansive goals than the Clean Air Act was ever designed to cover. The paper is online here.
Read more: http://americansforprosperity.org/102510-afp-releases-paper-detailing-how-epa-could-force-cap-and-trade-against-public-wishes#ixzz13Qs2ZAgB
Little known fact: We have a significant amount of oil here in the United States. Why then, are we totally dependent on foreign oil? Political and regulatory roadblocks prevent oil producers from drilling domestically. After the tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama imposed a moratorium on offshore drilling. While that moratorium was technically lifted last week, the President’s hostility toward domestic producers is manifesting itself in other ways. Policies in place at the State Department and the Department of the Interior make up a permitorium, or de facto ban on drilling brought on by federal regulations and licensing requirements.
Our dependence on foreign oil is a threat to our national security. It is no coincidence that the countries with the largest oil reserves that generate the most income from oil revenue are also some of the largest funders of radical islamic organizations.
So how do we become less dependent on foreign oil? Emerging energy technologies are showing promise, but none of them have the ability to meet our energy needs in the short term. But we do have domestic oil resources that have not been tapped. In the wake of recent tragedies like Deepwater, we must make sure that proper safety regulations exist, but should not be afraid to tap into our own natural resources. Increasing domestic production will reduce or dependence on foreign sources and have the added benefit of creating jobs and stimulating the American economy.