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DavidArkush1Statement of David Arkush, Managing Director, Public Citizen’s Climate Program

Note: This morning, the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on S. 1324, the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act. On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act. Both bills contain multiple provisions to undermine or block the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which, when finalized this summer, will be the first-ever U.S. rule designed to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants.

This week, Republicans in the House and Senate are advancing bills to undermine the Clean Power Plan. One of their arguments is that they are protecting consumers from rate hikes under the rule. But electricity rates are the wrong focus. Consumers don’t care about electricity rates. They care about what they pay: their bills. Under the Clean Power Plan, states will improve their energy efficiency policies, and as a result, people will use substantially less electricity. That means their bills will go down even if the raw price of electricity is higher.

Members of the Kentucky and West Virginia delegations are key opponents of the Clean Power Plan, claiming, among other things, that it will hurt consumers in their states. They are wrong.

Today, we are releasing analyses of the Clean Power Plan’s impact on electricity bills in both states. We project that Kentuckians (PDF) will pay 7.7 percent less for electricity in 2030 under the Clean Power Plan, saving the average household $104 annually. West Virginians’ (PDF) electricity bills will be 9.9 percent lower, for a savings of $160.

It is time for Kentucky and West Virginia politicians to stop hiding behind the claim that they are protecting people’s pocketbooks. What they’re really doing is enriching the coal industry at the expense of electricity consumers, as well as everyone else on the planet.

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Business for DemocracyAfter a busy week of pressing ahead with Fast Track trade authority, undermining consumer financial protections and trying to throw a wrench into basic efforts to require publicly held companies to disclose political spending, the Corporate Congress next week will launch more public interest attacks. Public Citizen is tracking these:

More Fast Track: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday holds a procedural vote that could either put Fast Track on the fast track or slow it down until after the July 4 recess. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this undemocratic measure this week after employing yet another procedural gimmick. Fast Track’s fate in the Senate remains unclear at best as Americans’ concerns that more of the same trade policy would kill more jobs and push down our wages remain unaddressed.

Clean Power Plan in the crosshairs: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan (designed to curb climate-warming emissions from power plants) comes under fire again next week. First, at 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety holds a hearing about the impacts of the plan on energy costs for families, among others. Impacts? Glad you asked!

The plan will benefit consumers. The EPA, which admits to conservative estimates, projects that the Clean Power Plan would lower consumer bills by 8.4 percent by 2030. In addition, it would fight climate change by boosting energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. In the first two reports in a series, Public Citizen has found that the plan would lower electricity bills for Ohio consumers by $144 annually by 2030 and Maine consumers by as much as $129 annually.

And the House is expected to vote Tuesday or Wednesday on a bill that would let states opt out of the Clean Power Plan altogether. We can’t afford to delay; we need urgent, assertive action to combat climate change.

Regs attack: At 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 23, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Committee on the Budget hold a hearing titled “Accounting for the True Cost of Regulation: Exploring the Possibility of a Regulatory Budget.” We expect this to focus on establishing regulatory budgets for rulemaking, enforcement and inspections. The flawed premise of the regulatory budget is that our country cannot afford basic, commonsense public health and safety protections. In fact, what our country cannot afford is another Wall Street collapse, irreversible damage from climate change, more tainted food crises, unsafe and toxic children’s toys and products, exploding oil trains and dangerous workplaces that kill and injure dozens of workers a day. By limiting the regulations that agencies can implement, the regulatory budget shifts social, environmental, health and economic costs onto the backs of consumers and working families.

• Finally, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures will hold a hearing on using so-called repatriation to fund the government’s highway program. Under a “repatriation holiday,” corporations are allowed to voluntarily repatriate profits at much lower tax rates than would have otherwise been due. This experiment was tried and failed in 2004, and as a country we must learn our lesson and not repeat the same mistake. In addition to losing money in the long run, a repatriation holiday only would be a one-time source of money that would do nothing to fix the long-term funding shortfall for infrastructure investments. Additionally, allowing another repatriation holiday would reward corporations that for years have avoided paying taxes by using accounting gimmicks to shift profits to the books of related foreign corporations.
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Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

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The Fast Track package sent over from the Senate was rejected today by the House because two years of effort by a vast corporate coalition, the White House and GOP leaders – and weeks of procedural gimmicks and deals swapped for yes votes – could not assuage Americans’ concerns that more of the same trade policy would kill more jobs and push down our wages.

Passing trade bills opposed by a majority of Americans does not get easier with delay because the more time people have to understand what’s at stake, the angrier they get and the more they demand that their congressional representatives represent their will.

Welcome to the weekend as the millions of Americans across the political spectrum actively campaigning against Fast Track will intensify their efforts to permanently retire the Nixon-era scheme and replace it with a more inclusive, transparent process that instead of more job-offshoring can deliver trade deals that create American jobs and raise our wages.

Today the allegedly unstoppable momentum of the White House, GOP leadership and corporate coalition pushing Fast Track to grease the path for adoption of the almost-completed, controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal just hit the immovable object called transpartisan grassroots democracy.

The crazy gimmicks employed to try to overcome what polls show is broad opposition to Fast Track actually backfired. Yesterday, the House GOP leadership put most GOP representatives on record in favor of cutting Medicare by $700 million with a vote on a procedural gimmick. Today, it was Democrats’ ire about a gutted version of a program to assist workers who will be hurt by the trade agreements Fast Track would enable that was the proximate cause of the meltdown. That program was included only to try to provide cover for the two dozen Democrats who would even consider supporting Fast Track at all.

Today’s outcome is a testament to the strength and diversity of the remarkable coalition of thousands of organizations that overcame a money-soaked lobbying campaign by multinational corporations and intense arm-twisting by the GOP House leadership and the Obama administration. The movement now demanding a new American trade policy is larger and more diverse than in any preceding trade policy fight. It includes everyone from small business leaders and labor unions to Internet freedom advocates and faith groups to family farmers and environmentalists to consumer advocates and LGBT groups to retirees and civil rights groups to law professors and economists.

Today Google’s shareholders will once again press the company at its annual shareholder meeting with a resolution to be more transparent about its lobbying expenditures. Though the company opposes the proposal, investors are right to request the tech giant to disclose this information.

Google has embraced old-school lobbying and political spending as a means to advance its policy positions: The tech giant has already spent more than $5.4 million on federal lobbying this year.

Good governance groups applauded the company’s decision last year to leave the controversial and regressive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but have rightly pushed the company to do more. Exiting a group you disagree with on many issues isn’t necessarily a bold move, and Google’s shareholders are looking for the company to transition to a leader on political spending and lobbying transparency. Google notably lags behind many of its tech peers like Microsoft and Intel when it comes to this issue.

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In the age of Big Data, corporate America knows a lot about us—our buying habits, where we travel, even our mental health. But ask Corporate America a simple junior high-level question in long division related to CEO compensation and some of these companies freeze like awkward teens at the sock hop.

Unfortunately, Chair Mary Jo White over at the Securities and Exchange Commission appears to buy this feigned incompetence when it comes to pay disclosure. Congress mandated that her agency require that publicly traded companies disclose the CEO’s pay as a ratio to the median paid employee at the firm, or in other words, what is the difference between the average worker and the boss. It’s been more than 700 days since she became chair on April 10, 2013 and inherited this question, but so far Chair White has been Chair Wait.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), among others, is tired of waiting. On June 2, she fired a coal-hot epistle at the SEC chair. Using the delayed CEO pay rule as Exhibit One, Sen. Warren summarized: “Your leadership of the Commission has been extremely disappointing.”

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