Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Obama High Priority: Killing San Joaquin Valley Jobs

President Obama claims to support jobs through investments in infrastructure. Yet his actions suggest his real priority is to deliver political favors to left-wing activists.

Here is what President Obama promised on November 2, 2011—

“no more earmarks, no more bridges to nowhere. We're going to stop the picking of projects based on political gain and start picking them based on two criteria: how badly they're needed out there and how much good they'll do for our economy.”

Today, the President announced 14 high priority federal infrastructure projects around the nation. According to the White House, “the President directed agencies to expedite environmental reviews and permit decisions for a selection of high priority infrastructure projects that will create a significant number of jobs (see here).

One of the 14 projects is located in the San Joaquin Valley but it is expected to eliminate jobs, not create them. Conservative estimates of job losses, using the methodology of radical environmentalists, demonstrate that 3,000 jobs will be lost due to reduced water supplies (see explanation of reduced water supply and employment here). Also, due to the excessive cost of the project (more than $1 billion), taxpayers will be forced to shell out $21 million per fish for the “restored” salmon run.

With all of the significant challenges facing America today, including historic deficits, high unemployment and unprecedented debt, it is astounding that the President would view the job killing San Joaquin River restoration as a high national priority. However, it is not the first time we have witnessed politics and not policy rule the White House.

Less than two years ago the President offered a pre-election Halloween treat to Valley Democrats when he funded the infamous California high speed rail program in the Central Valley—an earmark that targeted assistance to one vulnerable Democratic Congressman. The project is a national disgrace and has been labeled the “train to nowhere” around the country (details here).

Today’s announcement has handed Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Natural Resources Defense Council and its allies an early Christmas treat by making the San Joaquin River restoration a high national priority. It will cost us precious water and thousands of jobs while damaging the environment by adding stress to a severely depleted aquifer.

For the people of the San Joaquin Valley, their communities and livelihoods, President Obama is likely to be remembered as the worst President in American history.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Got one of Obama's Green Jobs? Not likely...



The Department of Labor’s Inspector General (IG) recently issued a report on the status of a $500 million “green jobs” program designed by the President and congressional Democrats in 2009.  The findings are disappointing, to say the least.

The program was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the President’s costly $1.2 trillion “stimulus” failure – and was designed to procure employment for approximately 80,000 people by providing grants for labor exchange and job training projects.  Two years after the program’s inception, $300 million remains unspent, a mere 15 percent of current participants have been provided with jobs, and only 2 percent of the targeted 69,717 participants have retained employment for at least 6 months.

These are underwhelming results.  According to the IG, “[W]ith 61 percent of the training grant periods elapsed and only 10 percent of participants entered employment, there is no evidence that grantees will effectively use the funds and deliver targeted employment outcomes by the end of the grant periods."  The IG further recommends that the bulk of the money allotted for the program be returned to the Treasury.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Salazar's Dishonest Agency Exposed

Earlier today, I transmitted the following letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in response to his dishonest attacks against the San Joaquin Valley's Congressional delegation:

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar,

I recently had the opportunity to read your remarks delivered at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and was shocked by your callous disregard for the people suffering in the San Joaquin Valley. In the future, I hope you will consider broadening your audience to communities in the San Joaquin Valley. There are many venues available, including food banks, foreclosed homes and vacant buildings for you to use for your speech.

During your remarks, you called attention to and lauded the people who worked together to build our nation’s infrastructure, such as California’s state and federal water projects. You suggested that these bygone visionaries are the predecessors of men like yourself. However, those prior leaders worked to increase California’s fresh water supplies. You are working to implement policies that reduce them.

The facts speak for themselves. Under your leadership, the Department of Interior has systematically attacked the very infrastructure you praise. Worse, your actions related to the Delta have been exposed as politically motivated and illegal. This scandal, as outlined by the U.S. District Court’s recent admonition of your agency, is damning and should be the subject of Congressional Oversight Hearings.

Mr. Secretary, despite your attempt to cloak your actions in pragmatism, you and your agency have developed a draconian record unparalleled in recent history. Not only have you implemented illegal policies, but you have aided and abetted the extortionist practices of radical groups whose “environmentalism” comes a distant second to left-wing politics. In short, yours has been a job killing, infrastructure crippling agency – one that delivers artificial water shortages where crops once grew.

You should be ashamed of your Department and truly embarrassed by the decision handed down to you by the U.S. District Court. The transcript from the Motion to Stay hearing on the Delta smelt cases reads in part:

“[The federal government] haven't just violated the Endangered Species Act in producing an unlawful BiOp and unlawful and reasonable and prudent alternatives, they've also violated NEPA, which, in effect, prevented any rational, any what the Court would believe to be informed, competent and considerate reflective analysis of the human health and safety impacts, impacts on the State of California water supply and related impacts by not performing a NEPA analysis, not preparing an EIS and not following the law in any regard to that extent.”

The court went on to challenge the credibility of the federal government’s expert witnesses. These are the same witnesses you have relied on to bring economic destruction to the families in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Court also on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s expert witness:

“The Court finds that Dr. Norris' testimony, as it has been presented in this courtroom and now in her subsequent declaration, she may be a very reasonable person and she may be a good scientist, she may be honest, but she has not been honest with this Court. I find her to be incredible as a witness. I find her testimony to be that of a zealot. And I'm not overstating the case, I'm not being histrionic, I'm not being dramatic. I've never seen anything like it. And I've seen a few witnesses testify.”

The Court on the Bureau of Reclamation’s expert witness:

“I'm going to start with Mr. Feyrer…There can be no acceptance by a court of the United States of the conduct that has been engaged in in this case by these witnesses. And I am going to make a very clear and explicit record to support that finding of agency bad faith because, candidly, the only inference that the Court can draw is that it is an attempt to mislead and to deceive the Court into accepting what is not only not the best science, it's not science. There is speculation. There is primarily, mostly contradicted opinions that are presented that the Court not only finds no basis for, but they can't be anything but false because a witness can't testify under oath on a witness stand and then, within approximately a month, make statements that are so contradictory that they're absolutely irreconcilable with what has been stated earlier.”

Your tenure and that of the Obama Administration as a whole have made it abundantly clear that a utopian Green Agenda is more important than working families in America. The unemployed in the San Joaquin Valley have become collateral damage as you pursue control over our nation’s vast resources. Along the way, you have damaged the very integrity of science and undermined the democratic process.

In future, I hope your remarks will be tempered with recognition of the serious damage you and your Agency have done to this country. Starving people and communities of water, whatever the cause, is wrong. It is reminiscent of the actions of brutal dictators such as Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein who used water as a weapon against their own populations.

Member of Congress

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Charge and Response: President Obama’s Primetime Address

Here is the GOP Conference response to the President's address last night.

Last night, President Obama issued a primetime address, telling the country he’s not going to “bore” them with the details of every plan – probably because he still doesn’t have one. Instead, the president stuck to the same class warfare rhetoric and embraced the plan put forward by Senator Harry Reid that gives him the immediate debt limit increase he wants, more budgeting gimmicks, and no reforms to restrain future spending. Below please find a rough transcript of some of the president’s claims with responses to help you correct the record.

Charge: “For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.”

Response: What were yearly deficits when Republicans were in charge have become monthly deficits under President Obama. When Republicans controlled the House from 1995 through 2006, the average annual deficit was $96 billion. While Democrats controlled the House from 2007 through 2010, average monthly deficits were $75 billion and since President Obama took office the average monthly deficit has been $111 billion.

Charge: “But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach – an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, President Clinton, myself, and many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate.”

Response: President Obama is no Ronald Reagan, and the economic stats prove it. And Reagan supported a balanced budget amendment: “Only a constitutional amendment will do the job. We’ve tried the carrot, and it failed. With the stick of a Balanced Budget Amendment, we can stop government squandering, overtaxing ways, and save our economy.” – Ronald Reagan, April 29, 1982

Charge: “Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get.”

Response: President Obama and congressional Democrats already ended Medicare as we know by cutting $575 billion from the program. Instead of extending the solvency of Medicare, Democrats slashed Medicare spending in order to help pay for Democrats government takeover of healthcare.

Additionally, the president’s calls for job-killing tax hikes will do nothing to solve the problem but everything to ensure job creators sacrifice even more with higher taxes. In total, the tax increases on corporate jet owners, oil producers, and the “millionaires and billionaires” who earn more than $250,000 a couple, would raise revenue by approximately $855 billion—about 6.6 percent of the $12.8 trillion in debt the president will add over the next ten years.

Charge: President Obama now: “Understand – raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up…. In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine. Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it.”

Response: That’s a sharp contrast from what then-Senator Obama, said in 2006 when he voted against raising the debt ceiling: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies…Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

Now the president has threatened to veto any debt limit increase that doesn’t go through 2013, putting his next election over protecting our next generation. Earlier this year, the Administration demanded a clean debt limit increase with no spending cuts. Now the president is demanding an increase that will last more than seventeen months to get him through the next election. According to economist Keith Hennessy, “Over the last twenty years Congress and the President have acted 44 times to increase the debt limit. Ten of those 44 times lasted more than a year. The other 34 were for less than a year.”

Charge: “Keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98% of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all… What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade – millionaires and billionaires – to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make.”

Response: The president continues to call for huge tax increases on individuals and small business owners earning above $200,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a couple—or as the president calls them, “millionaires and billionaires.” According to the president’s budget estimate, this would increase taxes by $709 billion over ten years. Nearly 75 percent of America’s small businesses file their taxes as individuals. Half of those small businesses would suffer from a higher tax burden under the President’s proposed tax increases, limiting their ability to hire more workers. As the National Federal of Independent Businesses said when the same tax hike was delayed until 2012, “Raising the top marginal tax rate would have hit small businesses the hardest just when the country needs them to invest, expand and hire new workers.”

Charge: “We have tried to live by the words that Jefferson once wrote: “Every man cannot have his way in all things…Without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.”

Response: If we want to quote Jefferson, let’s take a look at all of the other quotes that warn us about public debt and his wish that the constitution included strict debt limitations:

  • “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.” – Thomas Jefferson letter to Virginia Senator John Taylor, 1789
  • “But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years.” – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789

Friday, July 15, 2011

Debt Ceiling Increase in Exchange for Budget Cuts?

A bill will be considered on the House Floor next week (final details pending). It will contain spending reforms in exchange for a debt limit increase. An overview of the plan is below.

The Current Plan

The current plan cuts total spending by $111 billion in FY 2012. The savings are divided as follows: reduce non-security discretionary spending below 2008 levels, which saves $76 billion; $35 billion cut to non-veterans, non-Medicare, non-Social Security mandatory spending; defense budget at President’s Budget level.

Total federal spending is scaled back based on the glide path for the fiscal years below:
  • 2012, 22.5% of GDP
  • 2013, 21.7% of GDP
  • 2014, 20.8% of GDP
  • 2015, 20.2% of GDP
  • 2016, 20.2% of GDP
  • 2017, 20.0% of GDP
  • 2018, 19.7% of GDP
  • 2019, 19.9% of GDP
  • 2020, 19.9% of GDP
  • 2021, 19.9% of GDP
A final component of the plan allows an increase in the debt limit but requires the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment before granting the increase.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Distorted Water 2011

Please check out the latest version of Distorted Water. In it I tackle many of the distortions and false statements that have been levied against the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, H.R. 1837, by radicals in the environmental movement and their allies in the drive-by media.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Senate Democrats Declare Water War


Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing about the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act. The bill, which is co-authored by valley Republicans Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, and Jeff Denham, generated strong opposition from Democrat lawmakers but has the backing of a re-invigorated Republican Conference and its leadership.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy made a rare appearance at the subcommittee hearing in support of the bill and reminded his colleagues that Governor Brown had declared an end to California’s drought. He continued that California’s snow-pack had reached 165% this year but that farmers would not get 100% of their water. “That’s like a company having its best profits ever but telling its employees they will only get 80% of their paycheck,” said McCarthy. “That’s unacceptable.”

Nunes and his allies are seeking to achieve several major changes to the management of California’s water infrastructure. Their plan includes the restoration of a bipartisan agreement known as the Bay-Delta Accord. It also revamps the San Joaquin River restoration, replacing it with an economically responsible and environmentally feasible fishery— saving taxpayers a billion dollars.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), who had touted the Delta Accord as a model agreement in the 1990s, shifted position dramatically and equated it as a declaration of war with no hope of Senate passage. Shortly after the hearing, California’s Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I strongly oppose this bill, which I believe is dramatic overkill."

During his opening statement, Garemendi decried the bill’s pre-emption of state law saying “this little piece of genius” would end collaboration between state and federal water projects. The bill “makes it virtually impossible,” he said. Westlands representative Tom Birmingham took aim at Garamendi’s interpretation of the bill and corrected him on historic and current operation of the projects. Federal law already pre-empts state law concerning project operations on the Trinity, he reminded the committee, and there was no similar outrage when that pre-emption occurred.

When asked about opposition from Senate Democrats, Nunes said he was disappointed but not surprised. “This is a declaration of war on the only meaningful plan before Congress to solve the San Joaquin Valley water crisis.” Nunes continued that if “California’s senators would change their tune if Congress imposed a 70% reduction on deliveries from Hetch Hetchy. Senator Feinstein would no doubt be happy to hand the City of San Francisco’s water over unconditionally since she thinks it will save the Delta.”

Feinstein transmitted her official opposition to the bill just days after attending a fundraiser at Harris Ranch, which is located in the San Joaquin Valley—only miles from water starved farmland. According to those in attendance, Feinstein committed to working on a solution. “I don’t see how anyone with valley interests in mind can trust them, which is why I have been talking to Senate Republicans,” said Nunes.

Nunes also sought to remind critics that there are many options on the table to gain passage of legislation and that he would be leveraging all of them to aid the San Joaquin Valley. This will undoubtedly keep the bill’s opponents on their toes. House Appropriators have already stripped funding for the San Joaquin River Settlement from the federal budget, a major blow to the plan which is already off schedule and underfunded.

Once lawmakers had completed their opening remarks, testimony was received from local water districts, as well as state and federal representatives. Obama and Brown Administration officials opposed the bill, maintaining their view that the Delta pumps were damaging the ecosystem, impacting a number of species including the smelt, salmon and killer whale. Administration officials also touted the importance of current policies, which they described as balanced, to protect the Delta ecosystem.

Advocates of H.R. 1837 were quick to note, however, that no new evidence was provided to support these conclusions. The disclosure of scientific evidence to support pumping restrictions was made necessary by a U.S. District Court ruling in May. The court determined that the government had failed to base its decisions on science and sent regulators back to the drawing table.

Kole Upton, a Madera farmer and former San Joaquin River Settlement negotiator, rejected Interior’s testimony that current policies were balanced and called for the replacement of the current river restoration plan as envisioned by H.R. 1837. Upton explained that farmers were being subject to a slow death due to water diversions and that broken promises related to the San Joaquin river deal convinced him to seek changes.

The Kern County Water Agency also offered testimony, indicating that H.R. 1837 would restore stability to the Delta and improve water supplies. The agency’s representative, James Beck, said that all water contractors, state and federal, would be protected under the proposed law— supporting Nunes’ contention that his goal is not to harm any water contractors. This testimony undermined one of the key arguments made by bill opponents, which suggest that a small minority would benefit under the bill.

When asked about the allegation that his bill would come at the expense of other water contractors and the environment, Nunes was dismissive. “They are attempting to deceive the public which is the only way they can survive. They think they can obstruct this legislation by dividing California’s embattled water districts and hiding their own financial interests. It won’t work.”

Nunes then described an alliance of convenience between environmental activists, a small number of Delta farmers and salmon fishermen, indicating that each will likely be represented at an additional hearing called by committee Democrats who are attempting to slow passage of the bill. “They have all benefited from the status quo. Delta farmers have been able to hide from reality on their islands, fishermen have filled their pockets with tax dollars, and radical environmentalists have assumed greater control over the state’s water,” said Nunes.

Delta farmers may fear the upending of current water management policies because those policies have to-date placed the financial and operational burdens for Delta restoration on others – primarily south of Delta water contractors. Under current law, little attention has been paid to this small but vocal group of farmers who enjoy unlimited access to the Delta’s fresh water supplies. During panel questioning, Rep. Jeff Denham underscored the uneven burden placed on water contractors by pointing out that San Francisco secures its water via pipeline from Hetch Hetchy, completely bypassing the Delta. This has allowed Bay Area activists to escape the consequences of their actions while forcing others to make sacrifices.

Similarly, elements of the west’s small sport and commercial salmon fishing industries have benefited from the status quo. The 1,722 permit holding fishermen collected hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars from 2007-2009. Nunes calls this money a payoff for their environmental activism, which was enacted under Democratic supermajorities. Several recipients made out with more than half a million dollars, with 213 fishermen walking away with six figure checks. And while some have claimed that the industry is 100% unemployed, regulators documented deliveries of sardine, mackerel, anchovy, squid and other species, effectively refuting the allegation that salmon fishermen are unable to work.

Nunes says that despite controversy generated by these groups, House leaders remain unfazed. A markup and full House consideration will likely follow this summer. Meanwhile, San Joaquin Valley residents have benefited from significant exposure beyond the greater Central Valley. The region’s water crisis has been highlighted nationally and is followed by the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and others. In 2009, the Wall Street Journal opined that Central Valley farmers are California’s new endangered species. This prognosis may change if House Republicans succeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Food Shortages in America?


It’s time to do something about rising food prices. As governments around the world move to secure grain supplies, the United States is pursuing policies that take more farmland out of production.

The man-made drought in California is one example. But there are others. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a system that pays farmers not to farm, is another. Originally intended to address serious problems with soil erosion and environmental degradation, the CRP has grown to consume more than 30 million acres of American farmland. No crops can be grown on this ground.

Under normal circumstances, the United States may be able to afford the luxury of idling farmland that could otherwise be producing food. But we are not facing normal circumstances. In fact, according to USDA and other agencies, we are facing the real possibility of grain shortages. This means higher food costs and serious economic damage.

For this reason, I and others are urging the President to allow willing farmers with arable land to exit from the CRP. See the letter I sent to President Obama, with the support of 25 House colleagues here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sensational Disaster Coverage Harms U.S. Interests


With all of the sensational news coverage surrounding Japan’s nuclear crisis, I thought it was time that someone begin a rational discussion.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake and unprecedented tsunami that followed has caused mass devastation and enormous human suffering in Japan. Thousands are dead and authorities are struggling to deliver essential services to prevent further loss of life. The facts on the ground are horrific by any standard and recovery will take considerable time.

As a result of the nuclear emergency, the crisis is ongoing and it is important for U.S. nuclear safety officials and public health agencies to closely monitor the situation. Americans are rightly concerned and deserve a factual reporting of the crisis. Unfortunately, we are instead being bombarded by sensational headlines and commentary that stretches the bounds of scientific reality to the point of utter fiction. Based on media reporting, one might reasonably assume that the embattled Japanese reactors were soon to engulf the island nation in a nuclear explosion – sending radioactive debris akin to Chernobyl into the atmosphere. But this is not a scientific possibility; it will not happen.

While the news accounts we are witnessing are highly troubling and downright frightening, there is no threat to the West Coast of the United States nor is there a threat to the lives of the Japanese people who have been evacuated to safe distances during the crisis. Let me briefly outline why:
  • All of the reactors that are in a state of nuclear emergency have been shut down. They automatically shut down when a seismic event occurs.
  • The crisis is resulting from the loss of primary power due to the earthquake, as well as the loss of backup generators due to the tsunami. Reactor cooling was not functioning properly, resulting in the threat of a meltdown at several reactors.
  • If the reactors experience a core meltdown because they cannot be adequately cooled, the containment system will protect the human population. When Three Mile Island experienced a partial meltdown in 1979, the containment system was almost entirely undamaged with less than 5/8 of an inch of shielding impacted.
  • Assuming the containment system partially fails (or fails entirely) the resulting radiation will not consume Japan and will not expose the West Coast of the United States. At this point, some reports indicate there could be damage to one of the reactors containment structures.
  • The radiation levels currently reported are not lethal. They have spiked within close range of the reactors but have also quickly dissipated. 
  • The containment system, composed of steel and concrete, has not been destroyed despite the magnitude of the earthquake and the impact of the tsunami. 
  • Steam is being vented from the reactor core to reduce pressure but that steam does not carry lethal radiation and it is quickly dissipated. 
  • Fires and explosions at the plant are serious but they were not nuclear explosions, nuclear fires, or radioactive explosions. They were the result of hydrogen buildup – which is a byproduct of emergency cooling efforts.
Clearly the situation remains fluid and in the final analysis there will be important lessons learned from the crisis. However, our long-term economic growth and the goal of energy independence will require large scale deployment of state-of-the-art nuclear energy facilities. That is what I propose in A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future – the all of the above solution to U.S. energy needs.

You can follow updates on the crisis in Japan via the International Atomic Energy Agencies website

You can also monitor the U.S. energy policy debate on my new Facebook page.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Roadmap for America's Energy Future

Originally printed in the Washington Examiner.

As tension and uncertainty in the Middle East rises and revolutions spread in the Middle East and North Africa, Americans are once again confronting the financial and national security consequences of our dependence on foreign oil.

Over the years, the American people have been promised “energy independence” by Democrats and Republicans from different Administrations and Congresses. Whether the mantra is “drill baby drill” or a green energy revolution, we have all been consistently disappointed by the outcome.

Nothing done by our government in the past several decades has actually helped to achieve the goal of energy independence, or for that matter, kept energy prices affordable for American families. Quite the reverse is true. We are more dependent today than ever before and far more economically vulnerable than at any point in our nation’s history. Today, I and others will introduce legislation that will finally deliver on the energy security promises made by leaders past and present – promises that began during the 1973 oil embargo, our nation’s first call to action.

The plan, known as A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future, recognizes the importance of oil, gas, coal, and oil shale to the American consumer, as well as our nation’s economy. It opens up for exploration and development the vast resources known to exist throughout U.S. territories on land and sea. This unlocked energy will fuel job growth and it will assure Americans access to stable and affordable energy.

At the same time, the plan recognizes that dependence on any one fuel source is dangerous, particularly a finite resource. As such, the Energy Roadmap will make the necessary investments to transition our economy to renewable and advanced energy alternatives over time. This is achieved at no expense to the taxpayer. Furthermore, unlike current subsidies and tax credits, new forms of energy will be available to Americans on a cost competitive basis.

The Energy Roadmap accomplishes these goals by depositing lease and royalty revenue associated with fossil fuel development into a renewable energy trust fund. Those dollars are then made available to energy producers through a reverse auction – ending the government’s current process of selecting winners and losers.

This market-based way of providing federal assistance will ensure the cheapest and most efficient technology thrives. It will also open up the alternative energy market to greater innovation and competition, a sharp contrast to the existing system of subsidies and support which are subject to the influence of lobbyists and activists through political cronyism.

Another component of the Energy Roadmap establishes a mandate to site 200 nuclear reactors by 2040. New streamlined regulations and a system to manage waste will help drive private sector investments in these facilities, which today are mired in red tape, lawsuits and the liability associated with the storage of used fuel. Nuclear power is essential to achieving an abundant and affordable supply of electricity to fuel America’s economic growth and will provide the base load power needed to allow significant growth in next generation electric vehicles.

While having the desire to become a renewable society is reasonable, that should not prevent us from using traditional fuels to keep the economic engine running in the interim. Congress should pass A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future so that our government can finally live up to the commitments it has made to the American people to deliver affordable energy now and for the future.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aid and Comfort to the Enemy?


Special Interests Line Up Against San Joaquin Valley Communities
Early Saturday morning, the House passed a 2011 federal spending bill which contained provisions to protect the water supplies of San Joaquin Valley communities. The language has two parts. One component will ban funding to implement the flawed San Joaquin River Settlement and the other will keep the Delta pumps operating for the remainder of the year.

You can read the water language in the bill by clicking here.

You can read my Congressional Record Statement explaining the water language by clicking here.

The fate of these important provisions in the Senate is uncertain. Even prior to House passage, Senator Dianne Feinstein (see here) and the Obama Administration were in full attack mode. Feinstein, who is trying to get the Delta declared a National Heritage Area, has for years fought efforts to provide relief to our communities (see her on the Senate Floor). To compound our problems, the Obama Administration is preparing to roll out a new government bureaucracy to oversee the left’s Delta agenda (click here).

Several groups claiming to represent the interests of farmers are working to block House Republican efforts in the Senate. They include the Friant Water Authority, which has become an apologist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its extreme environmental politics. Another is a large corporate farming interest allied with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Paramount Farming Company. Despite efforts to cloak their opposition in well crafted talking points, environmental politics and not the interests of San Joaquin Valley residents are responsible for their views.

You can read the Friant Water Authority and Paramount Farming Company letters here.

As House Republicans work to end the government-imposed drought, liberals and their allies in the environmental movement are stepping up their attacks. It is unacceptable for groups claiming to represent farmers and rural San Joaquin Valley communities to provide cover to politicians who are responsible for our region’s water shortages. You can be certain that I will continue to call them as I see them – exposing the truth behind who is helping and who is hurting efforts to restore our region’s access to reliable water supplies.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valley Republicans Seek Options for High Speed Rail Money


Today, I joined my colleagues in the House, Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) and Jeff Denham (CA-19), in the introduction of legislation that will allow the State of California to redirect federal high speed rail funding to finance long overdue and urgently needed road repairs along the State Route 99 corridor.

If state and local leaders choose to support this legislation, they will have sufficient funding to establish a six-lane freeway from Sacramento to Bakersfield while vastly improving the heavily congested corridor’s safety and enhancing the region’s air quality.

The economic and environmental benefits of SR 99 improvements are strongly contrasted by the uncertainty of California’s now infamous bullet train, which has been described by the national press as “the train to nowhere.” Providing the state the option to redirect high speed rail funding to SR 99 will give state and local leaders the opportunity to step-back from what is likely to become a bottomless pit of spending.

At this time, state leaders admit that California is poised to spend $58 billion – using ultra conservative state estimates – to build the phantom bullet train. However, the actual price tag is likely to exceed the combined federal highway spending in California for the 50 years from 1957-2007 (if it is ever completed). In addition, a host of independent watchdog groups, including the State Auditor, have raised serious questions about the project and question whether it is even viable. [State Auditor's Report, Legislative Analyst's Report, Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley]

Meanwhile, nearly everyone agrees that the State Route 99 corridor – one of California’s most seriously congested and under-funded highways – is in need of major infrastructure improvements. For this reason, I and other Valley Republicans believe California should have the ability to transfer a portion or the entirety of the federal high-speed rail funds to improve Highway 99. [see bill text here]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Water Wars Update


This week, the House will vote on a federal spending bill – the 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR). This CR, which funds the operation of the federal government for the current fiscal year, is necessary because last year Democratic leaders failed to pass a budget.

While much of the public attention is appropriately focused on efforts to reduce spending, there are also important provisions in the CR that relate to our communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

Specifically, thanks to the support of Republican leaders, I was able to get language included in the CR that will restore and protect our water supplies (see bill text).

The language included in the base bill of the 2011 Continuing Resolution will prevent any federal funds from being used to implement the biological decisions responsible for reduced Delta pumping – effectively guaranteeing normal pump operations for 2011.

Furthermore, it will ban federal funding for the restoration of the San Joaquin River during the 2011 fiscal year, the first step in Republican efforts to replace the flawed billion dollar salmon run. It also demonstrates Congressional intent to suspend restoration flows for 2011 thereby keeping the water on the east side of the valley.

In place of the existing restoration plan, which spends $21 million per salmon, I am working with House leaders to establish both an environmentally and economically responsible San Joaquin River restoration. This will include a year-round, live river on the San Joaquin but will also ensure a robust east side agriculture economy.

However, despite the inclusion of this important language in the CR, there are a number of obstacles ahead. There is no question that liberal leaders will offer amendments to strip the San Joaquin valley water language from the CR. That is why it is essential for California Democrats to unite in our defense. Should we succeed, the pressure will be on our Senators. Will they choose two inch bait fish and the junk science now rejected by the federal court or will they choose valley workers and their families?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Public Pension Hygiene Act

The first reform step is exposing the true size of the funding hole.
January 22, 2011


We're so accustomed to misnamed legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act (card check) that it's hard to believe that a welcome proposal called the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act describes what it actually purports to do. To wit, prohibit public pension bailouts by the federal government and expose the $3.5 trillion of unfunded public pension liabilities that local and state governments have obscured.

Most state and local governments currently use their own estimated rate of return on their investments to discount their liabilities. By projecting unrealistically high rates of return, states minimize their unfunded liabilities, at least on paper. Lower unfunded liabilities in turn allow them to reduce how much they and public employees must contribute to their pension funds. Inflated investment assumptions are one reason that public pension funds are unfunded to the tune of $3.5 trillion.

Public pensions typically assume an 8% annual return on average, but over the past five years state pension funds with more than $5 billion in assets have earned only 4.5%. Taxpayers must make up the difference between what the funds earn and what they need to pay retirees. For Californians that is roughly $5 billion this year.

Local taxpayers are already seeing their services whacked and taxes raised to fill these pension holes. University of California students will have to pony up 8% more next year for tuition to offset an expected $500 million in state budget cuts. Illinois residents will soon pay 67% more in income taxes, but taxpayers won't feel the full brunt for another decade when the funds begin running out of money. When Chicago's pension fund goes dry around 2019, over half of the city's revenue will be dedicated to pensions.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many private employers obscured their liabilities the way governments are doing today, though they didn't have a public backstop. Many funds went broke. In 1974 Congress established minimum funding requirements and penalized companies that underfunded pensions. The law also required companies to report and discount their liabilities using a more conservative rate of return.

These changes exploded liabilities and prompted many companies to switch from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s. While a majority of private workers now have defined-contribution plans, defined-benefit plans remain the norm in government.

Enter the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act, which is sponsored by House Republicans Devin Nunes and Darrell Issa of California and Wisconsin's Paul Ryan. Their bill would encourage governments to switch to defined-contribution plans by revealing the true magnitude of their unfunded liabilities. States and municipalities would have to report their liabilities to the U.S. Treasury using their own rosy investment forecasts as well as a more realistic Treasury bond rate (to be determined by a formula).

This data would make clear how much taxpayers potentially owe and increase pressure on lawmakers to fix their plans. For instance, Illinois estimated in 2009 that it had a roughly $85 billion unfunded liability. Using a Treasury discount rate, that unfunded liability balloons to $167 billion.

Out of respect for state sovereignty, the federal government shouldn't and can't tell local governments how to run or fund their pensions. But the bill doesn't do so and it also doesn't force states to fund their plans using a lower discount rate. States don't even have to comply with the law, though they would forego their ability to sell federally subsidized, tax-exempt bonds if they don't.

The bill may not persuade states like Illinois and California to revamp their pensions, but it will reveal how broken they are—and that's a start.

Printed in the Wall Street Journal on January 22, 2011.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crying Over Unspilled Milk

Land Of Milk and Regulation
Preventing the next dairy farm oil slick

President Obamasays he wants to purge regulations that are "just plain dumb," likehis humorous State of the Union bit about salmon. So perhaps he should review anew rule that is supposed to prevent oil spills akin to the Gulf Coastdisaster—at the nation's dairy farms.

Two weeks ago,the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that subjects dairyproducers to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, whichwas created in 1970 to prevent oil discharges in navigable waters or nearshorelines. Naturally, it usually applies to oil and natural gas outfits. Butthe EPA has discovered that milk contains "a percentage of animal fat,which is a non-petroleum oil," as the agency put it in the FederalRegister.

In other words,the EPA thinks the next blowout may happen in rural Vermont or Wisconsin. Otherdangerous pollution risks that somehow haven't made it onto the EPA docketinclude leaks from maple sugar taps and the vapors at Badger State breweries.

The EPA rulerequires farms—as well as places that make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice creamand the like—to prepare and implement an emergency management plan in the eventof a milk catastrophe. Among dozens of requirements, farmers must train firstresponders in cleanup protocol and build "containment facilities"such as dikes or berms to mitigate offshore dairy slicks.

These plans mustbe in place by November, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is even runninga $3 million program "to help farmers and ranchers comply with on-farm oilspill regulations." You cannot make this stuff up.

The final ruleis actually more lenient than the one the EPA originally proposed. The agencytried to claim jurisdiction over the design specifications of "milkcontainers and associated piping and appurtenances," until the industrypointed out that such equipment was already overseen by the Food and DrugAdministration, the USDA and state inspectors. The EPA conceded, "Whilethese measures are not specifically intended for oil spill prevention, webelieve they may prevent discharges of oil in quantities that areharmful."

We appreciateMr. Obama's call for more regulatory reason, but it would be more credible ifone of his key agencies wasn't literally crying over unspilled milk.

For the article online: