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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Congress can prevent energy prices from soaring higher

High gas prices have the potential to undermine the economic recovery. Rising fuel prices affect just about everything, and small business owners do not need more worries about higher business costs, and slower demand due to consumer concerns over high gas prices. With more of their resources going to pay for higher fuel and business costs, small business owners have less capital to add jobs. Certainly, Washington should be focused on making sure prices remain stable and affordable.

SBE Council is supporting the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" (H.R. 910), and we are asking all U.S. House members to do the same. H.R. 910 will stop the EPA from implementing an intrusive and misguided regulatory initiative that will only drive energy costs higher.

The legislation has been approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and we are hopeful H.R. 910 will reach the floor for a full vote in the near future. This important bill will address clear overreach by the EPA with respect to the regulation of greenhouse gases. Essentially, H.R. 910 nullifies this costly EPA regulation.

If the regulatory initiative on greenhouse gases moves forward, energy prices will continue to move higher undermining U.S. economic competitiveness. Small businesses will be disproportionately impacted by EPA's regulation, as our ability to compete will be permanently impaired.

As SBE Council wrote in a letter that was distributed to every House member on March 16, 2011:

"The EPA has worked to circumvent Congress in order to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2. The 1970 Clean Air Act bestowed no such powers on the EPA, and it was never intended to cover greenhouse gases, such as CO2, and climate issues. The title of H.R. 910 - the 'Energy Tax Prevention Act' - is right on target, as the EPA's greenhouse gas regulation would be a de facto tax on energy consumption and, therefore, on most economic activities. After all, the means for reducing CO2 emissions mainly are raising the cost of carbon-based fuels (in an attempt to push energy consumption to other higher cost forms of energy), reducing the number of emitting entities, such as manufacturing facilities, imposing costly mandates on vehicle and stationary sources of emissions, and/or slowing or reducing the overall pace of economic activity and production."

As we noted in the House letter, the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy contradicted the EPA's assessment regarding the impact on small businesses. That is, the EPA reported that the regulation would not impact small entities where clearly it will. In a December 2009 letter, Advocacy pointed out: "EPA has certified that the GHG Tailoring Rule, along with two interrelated rules that will result in the federal regulation of greenhouse gases for the first time, will not have a significant economic impact upon a substantial number of small entities. We disagree." It was added later that "it is clear that EPA's Clean Air Act greenhouse gas rules will significantly affect a large number of small entities."

H.R. 910 would stop a gross overreach by the EPA, and avoid the imposition of massive costs on America's job-creating small businesses. The U.S. Senate may also be poised to act on similar legislation through an amendment offered by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to a small business bill that is currently being debated. As of this writing, that amendment may be taken up following the congressional recess (which is next week).

President Obama is defending the EPA and lashed out at efforts to halt this unprecedented regulation. As SBE Council has noted in our communications with the Hill and the Administration, EPA is overstepping its authority and the issue of how to deal with greenhouse gas emissions should be left up to Congress -- not unelected bureaucrats whose actions will severely damage our economy, and the ability of our businesses to create/sustain jobs and compete in the global marketplace.

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO

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