On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Clean Power Plan, proposed regulations that aim to reduce carbon emissions from existing coal power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA is targeting existing power plants because they are the largest source (38 percent) of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, with much of this pollution coming from old coal-fired power plants with an average age of 42 years.
In the coming months, the agency will hold public hearings and accept comments, with a target of finalizing the proposal in mid-2015. The states will then have a year to design their implementation plans and will be able to choose from a variety of methods to meet the emission goals, including plant upgrades, switching from coal to natural gas, or by improving energy efficiency or promoting renewable energy outside the plant site. If a state does not come up with an effective implementation plan, the EPA can impose a federal plan.
Predictably, response to the proposal has been mixed. Critics claim it will cost jobs in the coal industry, raise electricity rates, and stall the economic recovery. The coal industry, Congressional allies and business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) oppose the regulations, pointing to a Chamber report that finds the rule would cost businesses more than $50 billion a year.
Supporters, including environmental groups, renewable energy producers and utility companies that have a low-carbon fleet of natural gas or nuclear-powered plants, counter that reducing carbon emissions will create jobs in alternative energy industries, address global warming, and decrease healthcare spending due to a lower incidence of respiratory ailments. The EPA estimates that the public health and climate benefits of the rule would outweigh the costs by anywhere from 8 to 1 to 12 to 1 by 2030.
The Supreme Court settled the question of whether the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon emissions and greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act in its 2007 opinion Massachusetts v. EPA, holding that the law was “unambiguous” and that emissions came under its broad definition of “air pollutant.” The Supreme Court ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health or the environment, an “endangerment finding,” which the EPA did in December 2009, laying the groundwork for the power-plant rule. House Republicans have already introduced bills to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and to nullify the proposed rules.
The impact of the EPA plan on INDA members will vary, and the full effects won’t be known until individual states settle on methods for meeting the goals. NAM President Jay Timmons warns that manufacturing will be harmed, saying that the proposal will remove “reliable and abundant sources of energy from our nation’s energy mix,” causing energy costs to skyrocket and be passed on to customers. Renewable-energy producers from the solar and wind sector, and those who supply those industries, stand to benefit because the regulations provide utilities with a greater incentive to invest in carbon-free electricity sources.
INDA government affairs staff will continue to monitor the progress of the Clean Power Plan at the EPA and in Congress and will keep you informed of any developments. For more information, go to:
Rep. Maloney introduces bill concerning chemicals in menstrual hygiene products
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12th) May 28 introduced an updated version of her signature legislation to study the health effects of menstrual hygiene products. The Robin Danielson Act of 2014 would require the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research whether menstrual hygiene products pose health risks due to the inclusion of dioxins, synthetic fibers, and other chemical additives like chlorine and fragrances. Maloney’s bill would also expand the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) oversight from currently monitoring dioxin levels in tampons to include monitoring and disclosing the presence of a broader list of contaminants in a wider range of menstrual hygiene products, especially pads, liners, cups, sponges and similar products.
In explaining the need for the bill, Rep. Maloney noted that “American women spend over $2 billion per year on menstrual hygiene products,” but generally lack important information about these goods. Maloney said that new research under the measure would help women “better understand the risks associated with hygiene products so that they can make informed decisions about their health.”
For nearly 20 years Rep. Maloney has routinely introduced similar legislation, with none of the bills gaining much traction. We expect this bill to meet a similar fate, particularly in a Republican-controlled House, but we will continue to monitor it and keep you informed of any progress. To view the legislation, visit:
Congress takes up expired tax extenders
As promised by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in March, both chambers of Congress have turned their attention to renewing popular expired tax provisions. However, with each chamber taking a different approach, any final resolution may be delayed until late in the year during Congress' lame-duck session. Although the measures, known as "tax extenders" are routinely renewed each year, Congress allowed the provisions to expire at the end of 2013 in hopes that it could instead pass comprehensive tax reform.
The expired tax extenders include: the research and development tax credit; the production tax credit; section 179 expensing (allowing small companies to fully expense many investments in just one year, instead of over five years); work opportunity tax credits for employers who hire military veterans or people belonging to certain disadvantaged groups; two important international provisions—the "look-through" rules and deferral for active financing income; and bonus depreciation.
The House has taken a piecemeal approach to the provisions, going policy by policy to determine which extenders should become permanent. The House passed a stand-alone permanent extension of the research and development credit, the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2014 (H.R. 4438) on May 9, which President Obama has threatened to veto. The House has since become entangled in partisan debates over how to offset any reduction in revenues, but has said it will next consider the business expensing provisions. Meanwhile, Senate leaders are trying to kick start debate on the EXPIRE Act of 2014 (S. 2260), which restores and extends through 2015 a package of more than 60 temporary tax provisions.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said at a May 21 speaking engagement he feared a conference committee might not consider the expired tax breaks until the lame-duck session. He said that could result in a sloppy legislative outcome if the measures become bargaining chips during year-end negotiations rather than being carefully considered by the more expert tax committees.
INDA, as a member of the broad Tax Extenders Coalition, has long advocated for the extension of these important measures, and joined in a May 20 letter to all Senate office urging the passage of the EXPIRE Act. We will continue to keep you informed of any developments.