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This afternoon, Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) clarified remarks he made during the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee’s hearing on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, also known as ECPA. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I have long opposed data retention and do not believe that any ECPA reform package should include such a mandate.  Data ‘retention’ requires a provider to retain information about the Internet use of all of its customers.  A data retention mandate raises privacy concerns because it affects all users, not just bad actors.

 “By contrast, I support a far more targeted approach, data preservation, which is already found in current law.  The law requires providers to preserve data about the Internet use of a particular subscriber when law enforcement has evidence of wrongdoing.  Current law allows for a retention period of 90 days, renewable for an additional 90-days.  At today’s hearing, I was inquiring as to whether extending this 180 preservation requirement would be useful to law enforcement.  I still believe that the more cumbersome proposals for data retention belong ‘in the dustbin of history.’”
Today, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced House Republicans’ fiscal year 2014 budget resolution.  As he has in the past, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) supports Congressman Ryan and the House Budget Committee in their attempt to rein in out-of-control spending and balance the budget.  

“Congress has an obligation to put an end to wasteful spending, fix our broken tax code and protect Medicare and other programs Americans rely on. I support the Republican Budget because it is a responsible plan to get our economy back on track while protecting seniors and repairing safety nets for the poor without raising taxes.  It creates a climate in which the private sector can thrive and create jobs, generates stability and protects the American Dream for future generations.  

“The proposal by House Republicans balances our budget in 10 years – something the Senate’s plan never does. And while the White House has not yet released its budget, I expect to see nothing but more tax hikes and trillion dollar deficits from the Obama Administration.” 

View the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Resolution here.  
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Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today reintroduced the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act (bill text) to allow religious institutions and private employers with sincerely held religious beliefs to follow the core tenets of their faith, rather than bow to a government mandate that violates their rights of conscience.

“America was founded by strong-willed individuals seeking religious freedom.  These freedoms laid the groundwork for what is now the greatest nation in the history of the world.  But certain provisions in ObamaCare allow the federal government to infringe upon this fundamental American right – forcing religious institutions and private businesses to choose between violating their faith-based values or facing substantial financial consequences.  Employers with hundreds of employees could face millions of dollars in fines annually.  Religious institutions such as parochial schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, and universities, as well as businesses with moral convictions, may have no choice but to violate their consciences or close their doors, unable to afford the staggering confiscatory taxes laid out in ObamaCare.

“Therefore, I am reintroducing legislation that protects our liberties from the federal government’s attack on religious freedom in America.  In a time when many businesses are already struggling to stay afloat and millions of Americans cannot find work, it is reprehensible for the federal government to punish religious institutions and employers who are creating jobs and contributing to our recovery.”

The Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act of 2013 would exempt employers from penalties, excise taxes, and certain suits that would be instituted against an employer if they fail to provide coverage in their group health plan currently mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that offends their religious or moral convictions.

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Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced H.R. 875, which would require the EPA to stop the use of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol (E15) until its harmful effects are investigated further. 

H.R. 875 (text here) would repeal the EPA’s waiver decision approving the use of E15 and the authority of the agency to grant further decisions until the EPA seeks an independent scientific analysis of the effects of the E15 blend.
 
“There have been several tests and warnings highlighting E15’s harmful effects on engines and their components, but they have all been dismissed by the EPA.  Therefore, we must force the EPA to stop the use of E15 fuel until the serious safety, durability, performance and environmental concerns have been addressed. Throughout the 112th Congress, I introduced several bills to address the risks associated with E15. And earlier this week, witnesses from AAA, the American Motorcycle Association, and the Coordinating Research Council all testified to the Science, Space and Technology Committee that more testing is needed. We have a responsibility to ensure that Americans using gas-powered machinery – whether it be cars and boats or chainsaws and lawnmowers – are not put at risk due to faulty fuel that has not been adequately vetted.”
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EPA's fuel folly

February 24, 2013



By Representative Sensenbrenner

February 24, 2013


What has been termed the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Phantom Fuel Requirement” is an aptly named rule that epitomizes the mind-set of an agency that has put itself above the law. Hiding behind complexity and its self-assigned moral authority, EPA increasingly subjugates the views of the public, Congress and the courts to its own policy determinations.

In 2005 and 2007, Congress twice amended the Clean Air Act to establish a renewable fuel standard. Under the RFS, Congress required that our fuel supply contain increasing amounts of renewable fuels.

The Phantom Fuel Requirement relates specifically to a mandate within the RFS to use cellulosic biofuels. Under the mandate, refiners, blenders and importers must purchase the prescribed amount of cellulosic biofuels or pay a fine.

The RFS established ambitious goals for cellulosic biofuels but charged EPA with reducing the requirement if production was in fact lower than the mandate.

The intent was for EPA to reduce the required level of cellulosic biofuels to the amount that was actually likely to be produced. Congress wanted to avoid penalizing refiners for failing to buy fuel that did not exist.

The RFS greatly overestimated the industry’s ability to produce cellulosic biofuels. As a result, EPA has had to reduce the required level every year since the mandate took effect.

In 2010, the first year of the mandate, EPA projected that 5 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels would be available. In fact, there were none. In 2011, EPA increased the mandate to 6.5 million gallons. Again, the actual amount available was zero. Undeterred, in 2012, EPA increased the required amount to 8.5 million gallons. The actual available amount was 25,000 gallons.

Since it is impossible to comply with the mandate to use this phantom fuel, EPA is effectively taxing the industry. This tax is passed to consumers in the form of higher gas prices.

EPA’s overestimates are part of an intentional strategy. On July 19, 2012, I wrote to EPA and argued that the agency had “usurped Congress’ policymaking authority in order to satisfy its own goals.” In its response, EPA wrote, “the standard that we set helps drive the production of volumes that will be made available.”

The statement is a concession that EPA was setting volumes above required levels in order to drive more production. Whether you agree with EPA’s goal or not, this position is at odds with the express mandate of Congress.

In the same response, EPA wrote, “Congress did not specify what degree of certainty should be reflected in the projections.” This latter response is reminiscent of a petulant child who, asked to clean his room, responds, “You didn’t say when I had to do it.”

On Jan. 25, 2013, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that EPA had overreached. The court held that the cellulosic biofuels legislation calls for “a prediction of what will actually happen.” The court further chastised the agency: “The EPA points to no instance in which the term ‘projected’ is used to allow the projector to let its aspiration for a self-fulfilling prophecy divert it from a neutral methodology.”

EPA, however, appears to have no more regard for the courts than it does for Congress. The agency responded to the court’s concerns by nearly doubling its 2013 mandate from 8.5 million gallons to 14 million gallons. EPA outright snubbed the court for its clear rebuke. Paying lip service to the ruling, the agency’s regulatory announcement stated the amount was “a reasonable representation of expected production.” One wonders: What “degree of certainty” does the agency have?

From all the data currently available, the 2012 requirement will again wildly overestimate the available amount of cellulosic biofuel. Taxpayers will very likely pay for EPA’s agenda twice: at gas pumps in the form of higher prices and in tax dollars when EPA is again sued for abuse of discretion.

It is past time for Congress to recognize the RFS as a failed experiment. Until it does so, I have introduced legislation that would link the mandated amount of fuel to the actual level of production the previous year. Allowing EPA to exercise its own discretion has also unfortunately proven a failed approach.

View online: here

In light of last week's meteor and asteroid, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today sent NASA Administrator Bolden a fact-finding letter to work with NASA to assess the nation's preparedness for future cosmic incidences.

Text of the letter follows:




February 20, 2013

The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr.

Administrator

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

300 E Street, SW

Washington, DC 20546

Dear Administrator Bolden:

The vivid images of last Friday’s meteor streaking across the Russian sky quickly made their way around the world, captivating the public and leaving many to wonder how such an event could happen without warning.  On the same day, much of the world’s astronomical focus was on an asteroid, 2012 DA14, which safely passed the Earth, but came close enough to warrant attention.  These events, while coincidental, raise questions about our preparedness for future objects coming toward Earth.

The meteor in Russia resulted in nearly 1,000 injuries, mostly due to broken glass caused by the explosion from the meteoroid entering our atmosphere.  This devastation serves as a blunt reminder of the dangers that cosmic objects pose to human safety and wellbeing.  The likelihood of a catastrophic event may be low, but the consequences are sufficiently dire to warrant preparation.  An early warning could enable steps to mitigate damage and limit the loss of human life. 

Locating and tracking these objects is clearly just the first step in preparedness.  The ability to eliminate the threat of an asteroid or meteor impacting Earth, colliding with the Moon, or disrupting our space-oriented communications and scientific equipment could be vital.  We would be remiss if we did not use the recent events as an opportunity to survey our current capabilities and assess how we can better use limited resources to identify potential threats. 

Please respond to the following questions by March 20, 2013:

1)      Please explain the current arrangement for tracking cosmic objects.  To what degree of certainty are the objects which pose a threat to Earth being monitored?  What type of coordination is occurring on an international scale?

2)      What shortcomings are currently present in NASA’s ability to accurately track and predict cosmic objects which may pose a threat to Earth, the Moon, our satellites and other space-oriented apparatus?

3)      How achievable are current NASA plans designed to eliminate the threats posed by cosmic objects on a collision course with Earth? 

4)      How much lead time is necessary between identifying a threat to Earth and its neutralization employing the current NASA strategies?

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.  I look forward to reviewing your response.

Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR

Member of Congress

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today introduced legislation to limit the EPA’s ability to mandate that refiners blend more cellulosic biofuel than is actually available.

This bill (text here) will require the EPA to set the mandate for cellulosic biofuel, in part, based on evidence of how much cellulosic biofuel was available the previous year.  

“If EPA cannot base their mandate on realistic projections, Congress should act to protect Americans from the agency’s phantom fuel fine,” Sensenbrenner said. “When EPA fines refiners millions of dollars for failing to use a nonexistent fuel, consumers will end up paying more at the pump. We want our energy policy to encourage innovation and energy security, but the EPA’s unreasonable approach defies common sense and manipulates the law’s intent.”

“The D.C. Court vacated the EPA’s 2012 projection as unrealistic and an abuse of the agency’s power. What did EPA do? They nearly doubled the 2013 mandate for a fuel that is still commercially unavailable. The EPA is on a runaway political agenda, and the purpose of my bill is to rein in the agency to enforce the law, not an ideology or wishful thinking.”

Background:

EPA’s 2013 mandate requires refiners to purchase 14 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel or pay a penalty.  However, there is limited availability of the fuel, and certainly nothing remotely near the EPA mandate.  In fact, prior to 2012, there were zero gallons of this fuel commercially produced.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set ambitious standards for cellulosic biofuel production as a part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  When Congress proposed these aggressive goals, cellulosic biofuel was still a theoretical fuel.  Therefore, it empowered EPA with the authority to reduce the mandate to commercially realistic levels should actual production fall short of the congressional mandate.  Since 2010, the EPA has set unrealistic mandates for cellulosic biofuels.  The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2012 mandate, 8.7 million gallons, was “an unreasonable exercise of agency discretion,” and rejected that requirement.

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Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the agency’s recently released 2013 mandate for cellulosic ethanol. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA’s 2012 projection of cellulosic biofuel production as unrealistic and “in excess of the agency’s statutory authority.”

“Despite a very clear rebuke by the D.C. Court, EPA doubled down on a runaway political agenda to impose unrealistic RFS standards. The agency has been mandating that refiners buy a commercially unavailable fuel and then fining them for not using it. These fines get passed on to consumers with higher prices at the pump. EPA needs to explain how the absurd 2013 projection is reasonable and within the agency’s authority.”

Read the letter Congressman Sensenbrenner sent to EPA here.

Background:

EPA’s 2013 mandate requires refiners to purchase 14 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel or pay a penalty.  However, there is limited availability of the fuel, and certainly nothing remotely near the EPA mandate.  In fact, prior to 2012, there were zero gallons of this fuel commercially produced. 

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set ambitious standards for cellulosic biofuel production as a part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  When Congress proposed these aggressive goals, cellulosic biofuel was still a theoretical fuel.  Therefore, it empowered EPA with the authority to reduce the mandate to commercially realistic levels should actual production fall short of the congressional mandate.  Since 2010, the EPA has set unrealistic mandates for cellulosic biofuels.  The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2012 mandate, 8.7 million gallons, was “an unreasonable exercise of agency discretion,” and rejected that requirement.

Last Congress, Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced legislation to limit the EPA’s ability to mandate that refiners blend more cellulosic biofuel than is actually available.