Wall Street Journal editorial
Freedom Works Key Vote Alert on Amendments
Freedom Works Key Vote Alert on S. 2012
Heritage Action Key Vote Alert on S. 2012
Heritage Action Key Vote Alert on Amendments
Wall Street Journal
3rd February 2016
Parks and Political Recreation
Senators want to make permanent a federal land purchase fund.
One reason government is so dysfunctional is that so much of it is on auto-pilot, blocked from regular Congressional review. Now some in the Senate want to make that problem worse by permanently authorizing a fund for grabbing private property in the West.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has existed since 1965 to “provide recreation opportunities to all Americans,” offering state grants for parks and the like, as well as purchasing property for conservation, at up to $900 million annually. But $10.4 billion of the $16.8 billion Congress has appropriated for the fund since its creation has gone toward buying private land, which has become a bureaucratic core competency: Nearly five in 10 acres in the Western U.S. are federally owned, including 80% of Nevada and more than 60% of Idaho. The states had to beg to get even 15% of the fund in 2015.
Too bad the federal government is far less competent at managing the more than 635 million acres it already owns. The National Park Service’s maintenance backlog tops $11 billion. The Grand Canyon needed $329 million in tune ups in 2014, including $200 million for busted water pipes that threaten to turn the family camping trip into an episode of “Survivor.”
Upkeep can’t be financed by the conservation fund, one reason that House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop briefly let the fund expire last fall. He’s suggested strict limits on acquisition, freeing up money for maintenance and dedicating more cash to state priorities. Environmentalists accuse Mr. Bishop of wanting to sell Yosemite to Disney, and their lobbying persuaded Congress to reauthorize the fund for three years in the December spending bill.
But now some Senators want to go further, and the draft of a new Senate energy bill would authorize the fund permanently. That’s a status typically reserved for programs like Medicare and Social Security and removes the program from periodic review. The energy bill is sponsored by Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), and the permanent fund seems intended to win the support of Democrats who might otherwise balk at some of Ms. Murkowski’s fossil-fuel provisions.
The bill creates a separate $150 million annual fund for high-priority maintenance projects. It’d be better to redirect the original $900 million pot toward upkeep, instead of handing a pay raise to the agencies that let the parks fall into disrepair. The agencies also shouldn’t be allowed to annex more acreage until the land on the books is in good condition.
The legislation purports to address this by directing Interior to think really hard before buying more property, taking into account “significance” and “urgency,” among other subjective criteria that the bureaucracy can easily ignore. The bill also does nothing to block the feds from using the fund for eminent-domain seizures.
House Republicans aren’t likely to go along with this land grab, but Senate Republicans ought to block it first. No federal program should escape regular review from Congress, and that’s especially true for a property-seizure scheme hiding among the foliage as a parks initiative.
Key Vote YES on Amendments to the Energy Policy Modernization Act
As one of our over 5.7 million FreedomWorks activists nationwide, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to vote YES on the following two amendments to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012, if they are brought up for a vote. Both of these amendments will be eligible to be included on FreedomWorks’ online congressional scorecard for 2016.
- S. Amdt. 2977, by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is the mandate that gasoline must be blended with ethanol and other biofuels. Environment and free market advocates all agree that corn ethanol is inefficient and wasteful, driving up food costs and actually costing more energy to produce than it saves.
- S. Amdt. 3127, by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), would remove the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) from the bill. The LWCF is a pot of money that the federal government uses to buy up more land, adding to is already massive holdings. States can manage the conservation of their own lands – there is no justification for turning even more territory over to the federal government.
Please contact your senators and ask that they vote YES on these amendments, should they be brought to a vote. FreedomWorks may count votes on both of these amendments as Key Votes when calculating our Congressional Scorecard for 2016. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of Congress who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.
Adam Brandon, President & CEO, FreedomWorks
Key Vote NO on the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012
As one of over 5.7 million FreedomWorks activists nationwide, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to vote NO on the Energy Policy Modernization Act. S. 2012. This bill contains a grab bag of small provisions that add up to a major expansion of the federal government’s incessant meddling in the energy sector.
This bill largely deals with subsidies – the federal government making top-down decisions on what projects and industries to fund over others in the energy industry. Among the winners of this bill would be hydroelectric and geothermal power, various energy job training programs, carbon fiber recycling, new biofuels, and alternative fuel vehicles. While many of these industries may be praiseworthy, the federal government should not be propping them up if they are not viable on the market.
The one positive that the bill’s supporters tend to point to is that it would expedite the process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. But this one – admittedly very good – item does not excuse the rest of the bill.
Perhaps the worst single provision of this bill is that it permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is a fund that the government uses to purchase new federal lands. The federal government already owns massive swaths of land, including hundreds of millions of acres west of the Mississippi. Besides the federalist principle that the states and localities themselves should be allowed to manage their own land, the federal government already cannot maintain the land it currently owns and shouldn’t be encouraged to keep buying up more.
The focus of much of this bill is merely on “modernizing” and streamlining government activities in the energy sector that should be left to the private sector and the states in the first place. Conservatives should be focused on rolling back the government’s ubiquitous intervention in the energy sector, not improving and enabling it.
Please contact your senators and ask that they vote NO on the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012. FreedomWorks will count the vote on this bill as a Key Vote when calculating our Congressional Scorecard for 2016. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of Congress who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.
Adam Brandon CEO, FreedomWorks
“NO” on Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012)
Published by Dan Holler on January 25, 2016
On Wednesday, the Senate will begin consideration of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012). The 420-page bipartisan bill, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 32% and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 0%, seeks to promote energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation through federal intervention. According to The Heritage Foundation, the provisions are simply a “continuation of government meddling in the energy economy” and would “waste taxpayer resources, override consumer preference, direct money toward politically preferred technologies, and appease special interests.”
Proponents of the bill will point to a few encouraging, small-scale provisions, like expediting LNG export applications. True energy reform, however, would reduce government barriers by eliminating mandates, subsidies, regulations, and other programs that hinder the development and use of our natural resources, allowing consumers and the market to determine our country’s energy future. This legislation falls far short of that goal; in fact, it goes the opposite direction by continuing and expanding the ‘government knows best’ model that has failed our country for decades.
After the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported the legislation last year, Nick Loris, an energy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, wrote a detailed analysis of the provisions, highlighting a number of concerning areas including:
- Creates more unneeded taxpayer-funded subsidies for worker-training programs including a 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board at DOE to develop a strategy for the support and development of a skilled workforce to meet current and future energy sector needs;
- Creates wasteful energy efficiency programs to retrofit schools and nonprofit organizations, and for improving the energy efficiency of state and tribal buildings;
- Provides subsidies for hydroelectric production, as well as research demonstration projects for geothermal energy and hydrokinetic energy;
- Expands authority for government money for biopower and bioheat systems, creates a low-interest loan program for industrial bioheat systems;
- Authorizes $100 million a year for cybersecurity research and development, workforce curricula, supply-chain security, testing response capabilities, improving coordination with the intelligence community and other cybersecurity actors, and risk modeling, most of which should be led by the private sector;
- Promotes electricity grid infrastructure and energy storage, but goes about it in mostly the wrong way by creating more government programs, not fully addressing any regulatory barriers that prevent development and grid modernization;
- Amends and reauthorizes a program to make methane hydrates a commercially viable source of energy, despite the repeated failure of the federal government in commercialization efforts;
- Creates an unneeded program for recycling critical minerals, which could be led by the private sector;
- Promotes commercialization of carbon capture and sequestration as an objective of the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, again ignoring government failure in the commercialization field;
- Continues government backed energy loan guarantee program, which amounts to a federal subsidy;
- Expands the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program to include the “reequipping, expanding, or establishing of a manufacturing facility” for vessels, which has already had several notable taxpayer funded failures; and
- Perpetuates the massive federal estate through the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) despite the fact that the federal government already owns over 635 million acres of land.
Heritage elaborates on the follies of permanently reauthorizing the LWCF, noting that the federal government already owns 635 million acres of land:
America’s largest land holder, the Department of the Interior (DOI), has a maintenance backlog of $13.5 billion to $20 billion for the land it already owns—a deficit leading to environmental degradation, soil erosion, gross amounts of littering, and land mismanagement.
The solution is not to throw more money at the problem by increasing budgets, acquiring more land, or placing burdensome restrictions on existing federal lands, but to transfer ownership and responsibility to state and local governments and private property owners.
Heritage goes on to suggest the “result of devolving responsibility to those parties closest to the issue, who can prioritize problems, solve them effectively, and properly weigh the needs and desires of local communities will be better land use and environmental protection, enacted in ways that suit the needs of local populations—not tens of billions of dollars in maintenance backlogs.”
While some of the bill’s provisions appear small in nature, taken together they would be a significant expansion of the federal government. When combined with the lack of significant conservative victories, the so-called Energy Policy Modernization Act is an “all pain, no gain” proposition.
Heritage Action opposes S. 2012 and absent substantial changes will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Amendments to Murkowski-Cantwell Energy Bill (S. 2012)
Published by Dan Holler on February 2, 2016
Heritage Action will key vote the following amendments to the to the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012):
Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Bennet-Isakson FHA Amendment
Today, the Senate could vote on an amendment by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) 4% and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) 59% to S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. The Bennet-Isakson amendment would force the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to further subsidize government-backed mortgage loans under the pretense of energy efficiency.
As Heritage analysts Norbert Michel and Nick Loris explain, this amendment “requires the ‘expected energy cost savings’ from conservation programs to be included in borrowers’ debt-to-income test. In other words, loan applicants will effectively have their income increased because underwriters will be required to reduce borrowers’ estimated future living expenses.”
This is problematic because it:
- further subsidizes taxpayer-backed home mortgages under the pretense of energy efficiency;
- dictates an increase in the amount of money that people will be able to borrow with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan;
- requires underwriters to reduce borrowers’ estimated future living expenses, thus having the effect of increasing borrowers’ income for the purpose of qualifying for a (larger) loan;
- counts on savings that may never actually be realized;
- further degrades FHA’s standards which are already very low; and
- magnifies these effects by compelling appraisers to add the alleged value of estimated energy savings to the property under consideration for a mortgage.
The net effect of this amendment would be to inflate home prices, burden individuals with higher loans than they need or can afford, and increase the number of risky government backed-mortgages in the housing market – all at the taxpayer’s expense.
Heritage Action opposes the Bennet-Isakson Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Cassidy Amendment to Repeal RFS Mandate
This week, the Senate could vote on an amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) 62% to S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. The Cassidy amendment would completely repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Signed into law in 2005 and expanded in 2007, the RFS forces American oil refiners to include a minimum amount of renewable fuel each year.
“The mandate promised less dependence on foreign oil, lower fuel prices, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of delivering on these promises, the mandate delivered concentrated benefits to politically connected producers and higher costs to America’s energy consumers.”
Like Obamacare, this program forces a product on the American people whether they want or need it. It is the perfect example of Washington playing favorites at the expense of the American people.
The principled position would be repeal of the entire mandate. Some have tried to advance a middle road that would primarily repeal the corn ethanol part of the mandate while leaving in place the most expensive parts of the mandate dealing with advanced and cellulosic biofuels. This approach continues to play favorites in the market and would continue to leave consumers on the hook for increased gas prices.
After a decade of preferential treatment by the federal government, it is time for the ethanol and biofuels industry to stand on their own merits.
Heritage Action supports the Cassidy Amendment to repeal the RFS and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Lee Amendment to Block Permanent LWCF Extension
This week, the Senate could vote on an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% to S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. The Lee amendment would prevent a permanent extension of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
At the end of 2015 the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill that included a three-year extension of the LWCF. Now the Energy Policy Modernization Act seeks to permanently reauthorize the program in perpetuity.
The LWCF is one the ways the federal government increases its footprint by buying more land. As The Heritage Foundation notes the federal government already has sizable land assets:
“The federal government owns between 635 million and 640 million acres of land in the entire United States, nearly 30 percent of the country and nearly half of the western U.S.”
Federal government management of these lands often comes at the expense of economic development and limits the opportunities for the individuals in those areas. Furthermore, proponents of the program assume that the federal government acquiring more lands in the name of conservation is a net positive for the environment. As Heritage points out this is sadly not the case:
“Eliminating the LWCF will not create more environmental degradation; in fact, just the opposite. America’s largest land holder, the Department of the Interior, has a maintenance backlog of $13.5 billion to $20 billion for the land it already owns—a deficit leading to environmental degradation, soil erosion, gross amounts of littering, and land mismanagement.”
The federal government should allow states, local communities, and individuals who are closest to the land and the most responsible for its economic and environmental outcomes to determine the right path for its use.
Heritage Action supports the Lee Amendment to strip the LWCF language and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Director, Center for Energy and Environment
Competitive Enterprise Institute
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