Tag: Eric Holder

On Oil, Instead of Raising Costs Through Taxes, Increase Supply

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, issued a statement in response to President Obama’s letter to Congress calling for higher taxes on domestic oil and gas production. Excerpt:

That misguided policy would result in more inflation, higher prices at the pump for already beleaguered Americans, and increased costs for products consumers need and use every day.Manufacturers support efforts to increase the use of clean energy sources and are helping to lead the way in meeting future energy demands with new energy sources. Until those alternative sources are cost-competitive with oil and gas and sufficient to meet this country’s demand for energy, manufacturers believe the United States should expand access to domestic energy by opening additional areas of the country – offshore and onshore – to exploration and development.

Timmons concluded: “President Obama wants to raise taxes on energy companies and, at the same time, reduce the cost of gasoline. He can’t have it both ways.”

John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, had several pithy comments for the reporters. From USA Today, “Obama, Republicans tangle over oil subsidies“:

This is a proposal born of desperation that would do nothing to reduce gasoline prices,” said American Petroleum Institute chief economist John Felmy. “It would reduce investment in new oil and natural gas projects, cost new jobs and decrease oil and natural gas production.” (continue reading…)

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President Obama: Eliminate Oil Subsidies (That Don’t Really Exist)

President Obama has made criticisms of the U.S. energy industry a feature in his recent public appearances, especially the campaign fundraisers, and today he elevated the political misdirection with a “Letter from the President to Congressional Leadership Regarding Oil Subsidies.”

While there is no silver bullet to address rising gas prices in the short term, there are steps we can take to ensure the American people don’t fall victim to skyrocketing gas prices over the long term.   One of those steps is to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and invest that revenue into clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Our outdated tax laws currently provide the oil and gas industry more than $4 billion per year in these subsidies, even though oil prices are high and the industry is projected to report outsized profits this quarter.

We must raise taxes on domestic oil and gas production in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil! Is that really a serious argument?

No. No it’s not. Just as the President’s repeated attacks about “subsidies” and “tax breaks” for Big Oil are not serious arguments.

The American Petroleum Institute explains the realities of energy taxation in the United States in this fact sheet. Good to actually see some actual facts in this important policy debate.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry does not receive “subsidized” payments from the government to produce oil and gas. However, there are many provisions in the tax code that allow companies to recover their costs. The oil and gas industry are eligible for these deductions, which are similar to, if not the same as, deductions available to many other industries.

Tax deductions should in no way be confused with subsidies. A fundamental pillar of the U.S. income tax system is that businesses are taxed only on net income. This means that there needs to be some practical and fair method for businesses to recover costs. The policies underlying cost recovery provisions in the tax code legitimately utilized by the oil and natural gas industry are no different than those for any other industry, and are necessary to insure that our industry is treated no differently than any other. (continue reading…)

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At the Environmental Justice Forum: Give Us Lawyers!

Activists attending the White House’s first-ever Environmental Justice Forum on Wednesday demanded more federal action and more federal dollars for the many causes that fall under the “environmental justice” umbrella, calls that the Obama Administration speakers embraced wholeheartedly.

A telling exchange came during the morning session, “Legal Framework for Advancing Environmental Justice Session,” moderated by Leslie Fields of the Sierra Club. After denouncing “environmental slavery” and “environmental genocide,” attendee Sacoby Wilson of the University of South Carolina asked several questions:

As relates to having lawyers involved in the process, there are many community groups who don’t have access to lawyers. So when you have government agencies, industries, that have their lawyers, when community groups are going to the meeting, they’re naked. They need lawyers, too. So if you’ve got your lawyers, where are my lawyers?

So what efforts are the EPA going to take, what efforts are the DOJ to take, to make sure communities have their lawyers too, who can be the soldiers, and be on the front lines to help those communities be able to activate, to engage, and be able to stop, block and improve, prevent and mitigate – whatever verb you want to use – to make sure they have sustainability and help the community?

Following several other speakers, Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, addressed Wilson’s remarks. She declared the Department of Justice to be “the people’s lawyers,” enforcing environmental laws for “all Americans, not just the affluent.”

Moreno then described a Justice Department that more concerned with promoting a green agenda and economic redistribution than enforcing federal law. From our transcript (audio):

We just had a town hall meeting in the Justice Department. We brought, there were about 200 lawyers there, we were to tell them what their role was in environmental justice, what their role was in presenting the interest of the American people.

So you’re going to be seeing more of our lawyers, as we train them out there, talking to you. Because as we’re shaping remedies, as we’re discussing injunctive relief, whether it’s in the context of a settlement, whether we’re talking about supplemental environmental projects, or in court, litigating for enhanced injunctive relief, to try to address some of the cumulative burdens, some of the disproportionate burdens.

I met with corporate counsel, corporate counsel group, recently. You know what we spent almost the whole time talking about? Environmental justice. I told them, they are your neighbors. They need to be good neighbors. And sometimes even just complying with the law, that’s good start, because that means Cynthia and I aren’t going to knock on their door, and tell them they’re in non-compliance, but it’s not everything.

We’ve talked to them about doing more: green technology, green jobs and retrofitting. We’ve told them they need to think about what the needs of the community are, engage in a conversation with their neighbors, to see how they can conduct their business – which we all need, we need the jobs and we need the electricity and everything else – but conduct it in a way that is going to take into account public health and environmental protection.

So I said to them, when we’re talking about injunctive relief with you, looking forward, we’re also going to be talking about enhanced injunctive relief. What more can you do so you go beyond compliance? That’s how we’re trying to be the nation’s environmental lawyers, and to make sure that we bring you into the conversation whenever we can, through public outreach. Not just putting a consent decree on the website, but more, so that we can hear from you, so we can serve you in a better way.

The message then to business (the corporate counsel group she mentioned), is that government’s priority is not the law, per se, but rather using enforcement to force business into enacting the Administration’s political goals. If Congress doesn’t go far enough to elevate “environmental justice” as a matter of policy and law, no problem: The Justice Department will just do it on its own.

How’s that for a jobs agenda?

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Environmental Justice Leaders Speak at White House Forum

The White House sponsored its first Environmental Justice Forum on Wednesday. We’ve already covered the remarks of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, one of five Cabinet secretaries to speak. (“If Jobs are the Priority, What’s Environmental Justice?“)

The White House also hailed the more “than 100 environment justice leaders from across the country [who] attended the day-long event.” What did they have to say?

Following remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder, a panel discussion was held entitled, “Legal Framework for Advancing Environmental Justice Session.” Audience members commented and posed questions. Excerpts:

Robert Bullard, Clark Atlanta University (audio):

I think it’s important to understand that while the nation and our policymakers talk about going green and clean energy, communities like Corpus Christi and other communities are still being bombarded with dirty industry. [Applause] As the nation goes green, communities of color are getting, are being pushed on with dirty coal-fired power plants that are on the drawing boards, that are being proposed, as we talk about renewables and green. As we talk about green energy, TVA and other power companies are pushing toxic coal ash in communities of color and low-income communities. This is real, while we’re talking about this stuff.

Sacoby Wilson, University of South Carolina (audio):

I think EJ is too nice of a term. Can we use the “impact of environmental slavery?” Can we use “the impact of environmental oppression?” Who’ve been bombarded, as Dr. Bullard said, who’ve been burdened by these issues? What legal frameworks are going to be really be implemented to take these administrative complaints that are backlogged right now, that haven’t been addressed in the last 10 years or so, 12 years, and what other sort of legal frameworks going beyond sort of the national frameworks that we have, using some of the human rights frameworks that are out there, too, because we’re not even talking about that body of law that’s out there that would allow us to really get these issues. These are human rights issues. It’s not just civil rights, it’s human rights. So we have to really to fight environmental oppression, to fight environmental genocide, to fight environmental slavery, we need to take Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964)], this executive order [1994’s Executive Order (E.O.) 12898], this human rights frameworks out there to really get at these issues.

Beverly Wright, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University, New Orleans (audio):

I just wanted to raise something that’s of real concern for those of us who live in the Gulf Coast, but specifically, to the city of New Orleans, where we’re watching what we call “disaster capitalism” really take hold and is oppressing our people in all kinds of ways, but specifically, as it relates to environmental pollution.

We’re now being faced with having to fight a gasification plant that they want to put of course in the neighborhood that’s 85 percent African-American, right under the high rise, where we hear there could be vapor plumes and all kinds of other things happening. We’re starting to feel like we might have a hard time fighting this. We’ve asked EPA, for example, to look into the permitting process and see if we can get some response from them on whether or not, you know, this thing is safe. All of our research basically shows that it isn’t, but there’s so little research out there, that it’s almost as if EPA can’t make a statement because they don’t have data. So we become the guinea pigs for something that’s extremely dangerous.

We’ve transcribed their full remarks here. The White House has posted video of the segment at YouTube here.

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The Limits of Congress on Health Care and Individual Autonomy

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Monday, rejecting the attempt by Congress to force people to buy a product, in this case, health insurance. The core paragraph in his ruling:

The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers. At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance – or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage – it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who brought the suit, emphasized constitutional principles in his comments on the court’s ruling: “This is only round one. This lawsuit is not about health-care, it’s about liberty.”

In an interview on WMAL this morning and other comments, the Republican Attorney General responded to questions about expedited review by the Supreme Court by noting the economic consequences of continued undertainty: “With this ongoing court battle, there is a great deal of uncertainty for states, individuals, and businesses as to whether this law will be around two years from now or not. We need this resolved as quickly as possible – for the good of our people and our economy.”

In a Washington Post op-ed — they must have anticipated a defeat — Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius argued that the health care law brings many goods thing to people and would not be possible without the individual mandate. After leading with an anecdote about the benefits of the law, they argue:

As these lawsuits continue, Americans should be clear about what the opponents of reform are asking the courts to do. Striking down the individual responsibility provision means slamming the door on millions of Americans like Gail O’Brien, who’ve been locked out of our health insurance markets, and shifting more costs onto families who’ve acted responsibly.

It’s not surprising that opponents, having lost in Congress, have taken to the courts. We saw similar challenges to laws that created Social Security and established new civil rights protections. Those challenges ultimately failed, and so will this one.

Thus, the Administration’s argument is a political, not a constitutional one, foreshadowing the 112th Congress and 2012 elections. There appear to be no limits on the federal government’s mandates in this view. And if you oppose their view on health care, you oppose Social Security and civil rights. Clear?

Washington Post, “Cantor, McDonnell call for expedited Supreme Court review of health-care law
Cuccinelli news release, “Virginia wins federal court challenge over constitutionality of federal health care act: Health insurance mandate is unconstitutional

Two brief profiles of Cuccinelli:

The NAM is not a party to any of the litigation against the federal health care law.

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