Thursday, September 7, 2017

Subcommittee Begins Comprehensive Onshore Federal Lands Energy Policy Overhaul with Review of Targeted Reform Measures

Source: The House Committee on Natural Resources

Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources began a comprehensive legislative overhaul of federal onshore energy development with a legislative hearing to review targeted bills that reform the existing federal regulatory framework.

“Each of these bills seeks to facilitate responsible onshore energy production and promote economic development and diversification in energy producing States across the country,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.

H.R. 3565, the “Federal Lands Freedom Act,” introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), allows States to seek primacy for the implementation of federal leasing, permitting and regulatory responsibilities for oil and gas development on federal lands.

“The key to sustainable, long term growth of federal minerals is a comprehensive long term energy strategy with focus on enhanced access, streamlined development approval and reasonable and protective environmental regulations. Delegating primary authority to the states would ensure environmentally-responsible development is possible without the lengthy delays associated with the federal onshore process,” Chairman of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming Paul Ulrich stated.

Anthony Ferate, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, explains that this is not a new concept as the Environmental Protect Agency currently grants primacy to states for the Underground Injection Control Program.

“State regulators are better situated to understand the geology of the state, [the] unique land issues at hand in a state and to know operators that function within state’s borders,” Ferate added.

A 2015 study by the Property and Environment Research Center found that the federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands. More specifically, for every dollar spent managing federal lands, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management earned 73 cents while state land trusts earned over $14.

H.R. 2907, the “Planning for American Energy Act of 2017,” introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), directs the Secretary of Interior to develop an all-of-the-above energy production plan strategy for all onshore federal lands every four years to ensure the nation’s long-term energy security.

“Affordable energy is the backbone of a strong economy. Low electric bills mean more money in family pockets. It makes a difference in quality of life from heat to groceries, from the light switch to the refrigerator,” Ulrich noted.

H.R. 2661, the “State Mineral Revenue Protection Act,” introduced by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), enables States to administer the collection of their share of mineral revenues produced on their lands, eliminating the need for the 2% administrative fee charged by the federal government. In fiscal year 2016, the fee collected almost $26 million, which could have been used by states to fund public services such as public school systems.

“These revenues that the States so badly need go for example to serve schools and some of our most economically hard hit areas. These are crucial revenues that the States need that we get from energy development and that energy is powering this nation,” Rep. Cheney said.

Trump administration moves to take away overtime pay from workers

Source: Economic Policy Institute

Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- "Once again, the Trump administration is weighing in against working people getting raises. The Department of Justice today filed a motion to dismiss its appeal of a preliminary injunction against the Obama administration’s overtime rule, quietly siding with business groups and state attorneys general who challenged the updated rule because they do not want millions of working people to earn overtime pay or spend more time with their families.

Unsurprisingly, when choosing between corporate interests and working people, the Trump administration sides with the former. A higher overtime threshold would literally put money in the pockets of hard-working middle class workers or give them more time with their families and the Trump administration is choosing to support weakening or killing this rule. One cannot help but notice that the Trump administration is quick to position itself near working people in photo ops, but is quietly working to undermine regulations that actually help working people."

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Eagle Forum Applauds Trump Administration for Eliminating Business-Killing Regulation

Source: Eagle Forum

Alton, IL - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Eagle Forum applauds President Trump for withdrawing an Obama Administration regulation that mandated burdensome requirements for businesses to report salary data based on race and sex,” said Eagle Forum President Eunie Smith.

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“The purpose behind the regulation was to lay the bureaucratic foundation for enacting ‘comparable worth,’ a radical feminist concept Eagle Forum has been fighting for decades,” Smith noted. “Comparable worth is a euphemism for federal government wage control.”

The feminists demand this kind of government intervention in order to eliminate the so called “gender pay gap.”

Not only did this regulation place an enormous burden on businesses; it supported a disingenuous statistic. Merely averaging men’s and women’s wages ignores the reality that many women choose to take time off from the labor force in order to raise a family. Many women choose to work fewer hours per week to allow time for other activities. Many women choose less labor-intensive or dangerous careers. Many women prefer jobs with flexible work schedules. Any job with a flexible work schedule will likely be a lower-paying job.

“Eagle Forum opposes all federal government efforts to control wages and the job killing regulations that come along with such efforts,” Smith concluded, “We are so thankful to have a president who understands that such policy dramatically harms businesses, which, in turn, harms women and men alike.”

Conservative Movement Releases Open Letter to the News Media: Beware of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Source: Family Research Council

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Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Family Research Council (FRC) today joined a coalition of 47 conservative leaders and organizations in releasing an open letter to news organizations, calling on the media to stop using data from the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC has recklessly labeled dozens of mainstream conservative organizations as "hate groups." SPLC's labeling of FRC as a "hate group" was connected in federal court to an act of domestic terrorism committed five years ago at FRC's Washington headquarters by Floyd Corkins. Corkins confessed to the FBI that he used SPLC's "hate map" to choose FRC as a target for violence. More recently, James Hodgkinson, the attempted political assassin of House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise and many other Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate, was discovered to have "liked" the SPLC on Facebook.

The letter reads in part:

"We are writing to you as individuals or as representatives of organizations who are deeply troubled by several recent examples of the media's use of data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a 'hate group' label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.

"The fifth anniversary has just passed of the terrorist event for which the SPLC's hate map and website were used to target its victims for political assassination. The following facts were established in the record of a federal court case. On August 15, 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the Family Research Council offices in Washington, D.C. and shot and badly wounded its building manager, Leo Johnson, who stopped his intended killing spree. According to his own statements to the FBI, Corkins intended to kill everyone in the building, and then go on to terrorize additional organizations.

"We believe the media outlets that have cited the SPLC in recent days have not intended to target mainstream political groups for violent attack, but by recklessly linking the Charlottesville melee to the mainstream groups named on the SPLC website -- those that advocate in the courts, the halls of Congress, and the press for the protection of conventional, Judeo-Christian values -- we are left to wonder if another Floyd Lee Corkins will soon be incited to violence by this incendiary information.

"That day, Corkins carried both the means to carry out this act of terrorism and a list of additional targets. The U.S. Attorney stated in federal court that Corkins targeted FRC and the additional targets by using the SPLC website's 'Hate Map.' On February 6, 2013, Corkins pleaded guilty to three felonies, and became the first person convicted of violating the District of Columbia's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002.

"To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is unconscionable, and it represents the height of irresponsible journalism to do so. All reputable news organizations should immediately stop using the SPLC descriptions of in individuals and organizations based on the SPLC's obvious political prejudices."

To read the full letter, click here

Trump Must Nix HHS Mandate

Source: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

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New York, NY - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Catholic League president Bill Donohue is calling upon President Trump to repeal the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate:

The Catholic Benefits Association (CBA), which provides health coverage to many Catholic entities, is asking President Trump to repeal and replace the HHS mandate that was sponsored by President Obama. We second that call: Trump's Justice Department continues to inexplicably honor an appeal to the Tenth Circuit that seeks to undo the CBA's injunctive relief from the HHS mandate.

"No government action in American history has ever resulted in more lawsuits by religious organizations," says the CBA. Moreover, the reasons brokered are wholly indefensible.

The HHS mandate fundamentally guts the right of Catholic non-profits to provide healthcare that is consistent with Catholic teachings. Worse, it grants the government the right to decide whether a Catholic institution is sufficiently Catholic, thus obliterating church and state lines.

Make no mistake about it, granting the right of the federal government to decide whether a Catholic association is truly Catholic is a pernicious power grab, one that flies in the face of the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty. This is clearly the most draconian element of the HHS mandate.

What makes this all the more disturbing is the ruling by the Trump administration's HHS declaring the ObamaCare HHS mandate illegal. Why, then, the foot dragging on the part of the Justice Department?

The Trump administration does not have to wait for a repeal of ObamaCare to do what is morally and constitutionally right—it can repeal the HHS mandate at any time.

We all understand the frustration that accompanies the slow rate of presidential appointees, but this issue does not turn on new personnel: Attorney General Jeff Sessions can withdraw the Tenth Circuit appeal without delay.

One way or the other, Catholics need to know whether the president is going to fulfill his pledge to protect the religious liberty of the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as all the other Catholic groups that are party to these lawsuits.

House “Bipartisan” Robot Car Bill Threatens Highway Safety, Consumer Watchdog Warns

Source: Consumer Watchdog

Santa Monica, CA - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- A bill covering autonomous vehicles that the House of Representatives rushed to pass today threatens highway safety and leaves a regulatory void rather than enacting necessary protections, Consumer Watchdog warned today.

The bill, passed on a voice vote, under rules to expedite consideration, was being touted in some quarters as an example of new-found Congressional bipartisanship.

“Bipartisanship is worthless when it produces a dangerous bill,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.

The autonomous vehicle bill, called the SELF-DRIVE Act, would leave a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers, Consumer Watchdog said. The bill pre-empts any state safety standards, but there are none at the national level.

“Pre-empting the states’ ability to fill the void left by federal inaction leaves us at the mercy of manufacturers as they use our public highways as their private laboratories however they wish with no safety protections at all,” said Simpson.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs do its job and Congress should give the agency the money to do it,” said Simpson. “The sad reality is that President Trump hasn’t even bothered to nominate a NHTSA administrator.”

The Department of Transportation has completely ignored a committee, the Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation (ACAT) created by the Obama Administration to offer advice on autonomous vehicle policy. It has not met since Trump took office.

Self-driving car developers claim to worry about a so-called state-by-state patchwork of conflicting safety regulations, that they claim would hamper innovation.

“That’s nonsense. If NHTSA enacted Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous vehicles they would automatically preempt state safety regulations,” said Simpson. “The House action was show-boating that actually puts Consumers at risk.”

Consumer Watchdog’s has released an in-depth study, “Self-Driving Vehicles: The Threat to Consumers.”

Click here to read the report.

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Source: Concerned Veterans for America

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Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Recently, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) introduced the VA Information Technology Restructuring Act, or H.R. 3640, as a measure to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill is identical to a Senate measure introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) earlier this year, which Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) supported immediately.

The bill will create a Chief Information Officer (CIO) position within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to help streamline the upgrading, acquisition, and operation of IT systems in the department.

CVA Texas Field Director Ben Rangel issued the following statement:

“The VA’s outdated IT system is one of the many barriers to veterans accessing timely care and benefits. Rep. Ratcliffe’s new bill would enable the VA to make well-informed decisions to upgrade, modernize, and consolidate its IT department. We applaud the efforts of Sen. Cruz and Rep. Ratcliffe to make the VHA more effective, and we proudly support the VA Information Technology Restructuring Act. With strong momentum in the House and Senate, there is no reason for Congress to delay taking up this important measure to improve the care our veterans receive.”

Response to Washington Post Account of CEI's Victory on Paris Climate Decision

Source: Competitive Enterprise Institute

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Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Competitive Enterprise Institute President Kent Lassman released the following statement in response to Robert O’Harrow’s article in The Washington Post about CEI’s Myron Ebell, the Cooler Heads Coalition, and their work relevant to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. The article also challenges the role and independence of think tanks in public policy debates.

"Although The Washington Post’s story about CEI, Myron Ebell, and the Cooler Heads Coalition correctly identifies the success that CEI and the Cooler Heads organizations have had debunking global warming alarmism and exposing the devastating, regulatory onslaught that comes along with it, the Post fails to show Americans how public policy groups like CEI help cut through the rhetoric and bring people together on the merits of policies rather than short-sighted politics. Thanks to Myron and Cooler Heads, millions of people continue to have access to reliable and affordable energy, a resource that has lifted people out of poverty around the globe.

“The Post spends a lot of space questioning CEI's nonprofit status and activities, while conveniently ignoring groups 10 times our size. These organizations advocate for radical changes in our national energy policies and rely upon the very same IRS provisions. We can, and should, debate what the climate science shows and the policies we should implement as a result. But, what we cannot stand for are ideologues who weaponize data, spread junk science, and stoke fears to force political decisions that will take away Americans’ freedoms, undermine the U.S. Constitution, and jeopardize our national interests.” ​

CAGW’s Deborah Collier Testifies Before Senate Commerce Committee on FCC’s Lifeline Program

Source: Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)

Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) Director of Technology and Telecommunications Policy, Deborah Collier, testified this morning before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s hearing on the, “Risk of Waste, Fraud and Abuse in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program.”

The testimony reads, in part:

“Many Americans have heard of the ‘Obamaphones,’ made infamous by the viral 2012 video of a Cleveland woman touting the ‘free’ Lifeline program. However, few Americans realize is that Lifeline is part of the Low-Income support program, which was created in 1985 to provide subsidies for low-income households to obtain a telephone enabling them to communicate in emergencies.

“Over the years, the Lifeline program has evolved from initially providing one landline telephone per household in need, to offering low-income, qualified subscribers a choice between a landline telephone, a wireless phone, or broadband internet service at a reduced cost (with a limit of one per household).”

“GAO also revealed multiple instances of fraud and abuse within the program. For example, some recipients were using Craigslist to advertise the sale of Lifeline-subsidized phones and service. In other instances, Lifeline beneficiaries violated the one phone line restriction of the program by signing up for service from multiple carriers.”

“Continued fraud and abuse within the Lifeline program has continued despite efforts to reform the verification process in 2012 and again in 2015. If Congress intends to continue the Lifeline program and make it sustainable in the future, CAGW strongly recommends that the USAC be required to implement a front end verification process, and the FCC engage in more stringent enforcement actions against companies that actively register ineligible or duplicate recipients into the program, and skirt the verification process.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation's largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

Defeating Terrorists, Not Terrorism

Source: The Bipartisan Policy Center

In the 16 years since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. counterterrorism efforts have succeeded in preventing another mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil. But despite that success at home, the terrorist threat continues to spread. Too often, U.S. counterterrorism efforts have focused on military operations against a specific group, while doing too little to prevent new generations from replenishing their ranks.

Washington, D.C. - September 7, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- A new Bipartisan Policy Center task force led by former Gov. Tom Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who led the 9/11 Commission, is examining why the terrorist threat remains so potent and developing a long-term strategy to defeat jihadist ideology.

The Task Force on Terrorism and Ideology today issued its first paper, Defeating Terrorists, Not Terrorism: Assessing U.S. Counterterrorism Policy from 9/11 to ISIS, which offers an in-depth look at why, despite the many successes of U.S. actions against terrorism, new groups have continued to emerge.

“Even as the military defeat of the Islamic State appears imminent, American policymakers must avoid the temptation of confusing the defeat of one brutal terrorist organization with victory against terrorism,” Hamilton said. “As long as jihadists can replenish their ranks as fast as we can take them off the battlefield, the threat will persist.”

“The generational struggle against Islamist terrorism will come to an end only when the ambitions that motivate groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State no longer inspire new recruits to violence,” Kean said. “We can, and must, do better to defeat terrorists’ ideas.”

The task force of top national security, diplomatic, and intelligence experts will release recommendations in the future.

BPC is holding an event on Sept. 8 to discuss these issues. Speakers include key congressional and executive branch officials and notable experts.