Comment Period Open for EPA’s Latest Carbon Regulation

Potentially devastating to our state. That’s how we view a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation to strictly limit carbon emissions from the nation’s existing coal-fired power plants. This latest proposal comes on the heels of a plan to put in place greater pollution controls for any new power plants.

The President has left no doubt that he is mounting an all-out war against coal. Congress refused to bite on a climate change bill, so he’s spending his second term trying to legislate via the EPA. Smart, necessary regulations make sense, but that’s the opposite of what we have here; it’s entirely unreasonable given our nation’s energy needs.

These EPA regulations also will barely even move the needle toward reducing carbon emissions (not even by 2% according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy), but they will deal a tangible blow to the national and state economies.

The Institute for 21st Century Energy predicts the regulations will result in a whopping $51 billion in annual economic losses through 2030. On top of that, some 224,000 Americans will lose their jobs and consumers will pay $289 billion more for electricity. Separately, the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated the electricity cost increase could be as much as 80%.

Most Hoosier businesses and families can’t afford to pay that, and they certainly can’t afford a slumping economy and job market.

The reality is that Indiana will be hit far harder than most states because it’s the number one per capita manufacturing state in the nation. Over 80% of Indiana’s electric power comes from coal, compared to only 45% for the country. Despite diversification efforts, coal remains Indiana’s primary energy source.

For decades, companies that have located in Indiana have often cited a reliable and affordable supply of electricity among the determining factors, according to site selectors and information gathered by state government. Losing that competitive advantage entirely is now a real possibility with coal coming under attack by the Obama administration.

We encourage you to let the EPA know your thoughts on this latest regulation by visiting www.indianachamber.com/EPA. Also, let your members of Congress know; they need to take action before irreparable damage is done to our economy.

Sen. Coats Visits Chamber Office, Introduces Bill to Help Businesses

Senator Dan Coats was in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce office today promoting the bill he introduced — the Sound Regulation Act of 2014, to help Hoosier job creators. The bill would require every federal agency to engage in an extensive cost-benefit analysis to determine the actual cost, in dollars, of regulations under each agency’s jurisdiction.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the cost of complying with federal regulations exceeds $1.75 trillion every year, which amounts to more than $10,500 per American worker. Meanwhile, the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations has expanded from 71,224 in 1975 to 174,545 in 2012.

The aim of the bill is to reduce over regulation on American businesses — an effort the Chamber supports.

Here’s more on the bill from Sen. Coats’ web site.

Worst of the Worst in 2012 Regulations

There’s room for one last "Bottom 10" list of 2012. With thousands of new government regulations each year, it’s difficult to select the worst new rules put into place. Two Heritage Foundation experts give it a try, starting with 1,099 pages of new mortgage disclosure rules that have the stated goal of simplifying home loans.

(10) Mortgaging the Future: New mortgage disclosure rules were released in July by the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. The net result of this and similar rules? Fewer consumer mortgage lending options and increased costs.

(9) Tracking Your Travels: In December, the Department of Transportation proposed that electronic data recorders, popularly known as "black boxes," be required in most cars starting in 2014. The stated goal is to collect more information about car accidents. But this spooks privacy advocates, who warn that federal bureaucrats could misuse this information.

(8) Essential Choice Cutbacks: Under the Obamacare "essential benefits" rule, health insurers will be forced to cover health care services that the government deems essential, whether you want to buy them or not. The net result will be to increase health care costs, increasing the burden on consumers, employers and taxpayers.

(7) Instant Union: In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shortened the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.

(6) Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: The Department of Agriculture in January published detailed new nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected – at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years. The new rules sparked protests, and even a few hunger strikes, from students nationwide.

(5) Cleaned Out: Regulators admit that the new Energy Department rules governing dishwashers will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep their dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.

(4) Soda Socialism: On Sept. 13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. New Yorkers apparently are still allowed refills, at least for now. No word on how many NYC cops will be moved from crime prevention to monitor the city’s soda fountains.

(3) Sticker Shock: Adopted in August, these new automobile mileage rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars. Regulators argue that the fuel savings will make up these costs. Whether consumers want to make such a tradeoff doesn’t matter. The government has decided for them.

(2) Increasing Energy Costs: The Environmental Protection Agency in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, unfortunately, are certain: estimated to be $9.6 billion annually. The regulations are likely to undermine energy reliability and raise energy costs across the entire economy.

(1) Conscience Denial: The Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. The mandate allows no exception for church-affiliated schools, hospitals and charities whose religious principles conflict with the mandate. To date, 42 lawsuits representing more than 110 plaintiffs have been filed challenging this restriction on religious liberty as a violation of First Amendment.

IRS Decision Good News for Small Businesses

You don’t hear this often: Kudos to the IRS. They’ve stopped plans that would have been a nightmare for small business recordkeeping. The Phoenix Business Journal reports:

The Internal Revenue Service has dropped plans to require businesses to reconcile their receipts from credit card transactions with reports filed with the IRS by third-party payment entities.

Legislation enacted in 2008 requires these third parties to report how much every merchant is paid each year through credit cards, debit cards or services like PayPal. For the 2012 tax year, the IRS planned to require businesses to reconcile their records with these third-party reports when they file their tax returns.

The IRS decided to drop this requirement after complaints from small-business owners, who said it would pose a significant burden on them. They noted that the amount recorded on credit or debit card purchases often does not equal the revenue a business receives from the transaction. For example, customers often get cash back on debit card purchases or receive cash when they return merchandise purchased with credit cards.

Legislation to overturn the requirement recently was introduced in the House. On Feb. 9, however, the IRS told small-business groups it would not impose the reconciliation requirement for 2012 tax returns, “nor do we intend to require reconciliation going forward.”

“We appreciate your work with us in this and other areas as we continually seek to improve our processes and to minimize compliance burden on taxpayers,” wrote Steven Miller, the IRS’ deputy commissioner for services and enforcement.

Business groups praised the agency’s decision.

“The IRS did the right thing, and they should be applauded for listening to the concerns of the small-business community,” said Giovanni Coratolo, vice president of small-business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We were very pleased that the IRS took time to listen and work with us to resolve this matter in a satisfactory manner,” said Bill Hughes, senior vice president for government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “This will relieve retailers of an unnecessary burden while still providing the IRS with the tools it needs to ensure tax compliance.”

Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, called the IRS reversal on the reconciliation requirement “a small, but important victory for small business."

It’s Simple: Quantify the Regulatory Costs

Clyde Wayne Crews isn’t the best public speaker in the world. I know that because we brought him in for an Indiana Chamber board meeting a few years ago. Oh, he knew his subject area — the world of federal regulations — but audience members weren’t thrilled by his presentation style.

The most important part of that opening paragraph was the phrase "he knew his subject area." Crews, a policy vice president with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is right on target again with his latest writing as he takes Congress to task for the over-regulation that is threatening so many companies.

It might be easy to blame the agency regulators. But they’re only taking those steps because Congress is simply not doing its job. The partisan politics is preventing progress of any kind; then it becomes worse when our representatives abdicate their responsibility.

Crews writes:

“Ultimately, voters need the ability to hold Congress directly accountable for regulations by requiring congressional approval of new rules. Thus, legislation that will lead to costly agency rules regulating, say, lamp ballast energy efficiency may or may not make sense to a congressman who may have to vote directly to approve the accompanying costs.

“As Congress becomes more answerable for regulation, it will face greater incentives to ensure that benefits exceed costs as determined by independent analysis, rather than by agencies’ own estimates. Greater ongoing oversight might dampen the tendency to overregulate in the future, thus creating pressure for a ‘regulatory ceiling’ to parallel the fiscal debt ceiling. Regulation does not control itself, and agencies will not apply the brakes.We have to do it, through our elected representatives.”

Read more from Crews and access his full report.

The Coming Food Crisis — and What It Has to do with Canada

In writing a bit about food production for BizVoice, it seems there is one daunting, unavoidable fact: With China and other Asian countries expanding their palettes to include dairy products, the pressure will be on Western food producers to raise the output in the coming years. While my talks with Hoosier producers indicated their eagerness to step up, Dan Gardner, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, argues Canada will have a much tougher time doing so:

With rare exceptions, discussions of food policy in Canada are limited to the joys of eating organic and how hard-pressed farmers need more help from the government.

What you never hear is this: As a result of rising population and wealth, global demand for food is soaring and the world faces a food crisis unlike anything seen since the 1970s if food production does not grow rapidly. Canada is among the very few nations with the capacity to dramatically boost production. But we’re not. In fact, Canadian agriculture is stagnant. And politicians will not even discuss how we can change that.

“There is a disconnect,” says Larry Martin, an agricultural economist at the George Morris Centre, an independent think tank devoted to agricultural policy.

“Canada has the third-largest endowment of arable land per capita in the world, after Australia and Kazakhstan,” notes Martin. “We have, depending on the set of numbers you look at, nine per cent of the renewable fresh water supply in the world.” Put those two facts together, add one of the greatest commodity booms in history, and money should be pouring into Canadian food production.

But Martin found something startling when he compared the ratio of investment in agriculture with the depreciation of existing assets. Over the last decade, as China boomed and food prices soared, there was no rush to invest. “The ratio in Canada in eight of the last 10 years is less than one. So there’s less new investment coming into the food industry than there is depreciation.”

In the United States, by comparison, the worst year in the last 10 saw 40 per cent more investment than depreciation.

“It’s just astonishing when you see these numbers. We think of ourselves as a great wheat exporter but our share of the wheat market is declining. During the ’90s and early 2000s, we had between 20 and 25 per cent market share and it’s gone down steadily to 15 in the last few years.”

The causes of the stagnation are many, Martin says. A big one is a regulatory system that stifles innovation. Martin recalls testifying at a parliamentary committee alongside a wheat breeder from the University of Saskatchewan. “He went through a whole list of wheat varieties that he came up with that are much higher yielding than the wheat varieties in Canada. He couldn’t get them registered in Canada but they got registered in Montana and we now have to compete with them.”

Then there’s “supply management,” the 1970s-era policy which effectively turned dairy and poultry production into an industry-controlled cartel protected by import tariffs. It’s good for existing dairy and poultry producers because it keeps prices high and stable. And it has made the lucky people with production quotas a lot of money: the quota for a single dairy cow can go for $30,000 and estimates of the total value of production quotas range between $30 billion and $50 billion.