Obama Admin. Crams Over New 1,200 Regulations Just Before The New Year

The Obama administration is cramming like a college student trying to study for a final exam, publishing more than 1,200 new regulations in the last 15 days alone, according to data from Regulations.gov.

Energy and environment rules are the biggest category, with 139 published by the federal government in the last 15 days, according to Regulations.gov.

One of the most contentious new regulations is the Environmental Protection Agency’s coal ash rule. The rule has been critcized by the coal industry and environmental groups — though for entirely different reasons — and has a price tag of up to $20.3 billion. The rule was finalized last Friday.

Before that, the Obama administration finalized a new ozone standard that could become the costliest rule ever proposed by the EPA. The EPA released the rule while millions of Americans were getting ready to eat some turkey and pie for Thanksgiving.

Regulations listed on Regulations.gov include “Notices from the Federal Register; Proposed Rules; Final Rules.” The government website shows that 309 rules were proposed or finalized in the last 15 days and 892 notices from the federal register were received — some of which could lead to new rulemakings.

So far this year, the Obama administration has proposed or finalized  more than $200 billion in regulations when the coal ash rule’s costs are factored in, according to the American Action Forum.

But that’s not all, the Obama administration will be unleashing a slew of new regulations in 2015 aimed at hydraulic fracturing, energy production on federal lands, methane from oil and gas drilling and carbon dioxide from power plants.

President Obama has been criticized in the past by environmental groups for not going far enough to fight global warming and promote green energy. But activists may quiet down in 2015 when the administration finalizes a slew of new energy regulations that will cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

The energy experts at ClearView Energy Partners have a list of some new regulations for next year that include “the fracking rule for federal lands due to be finalized by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM)… BLM’s rule governing flaring from oil and gas wells on federal lands… an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding federal royalty rates for federal onshore oil and gas leases… EPA’s proposal of effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) for pre-treatment of oil and gas wastewater; and further details regarding the Administration’s Methane Strategy.”

The EPA is also set to finalize new power plant regulations in 2015 that limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing electric generating units.

First the agency must finalize carbon emissions limits for new power plants. Their proposed rule has already come under intense criticism from utilities, coal country and federal lawmakers because it essentially mandates that coal plants use carbon capture and storage technology — an unproven technology.

The EPA will then finalize rules for existing power plants, which requires states to submit plans to the agency on how they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. This rule has already been subject to legal challenges by states and the coal industry.

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This article was originally published on the Daily Caller News Foundation

CARTOON: Normalizing Relations with Cuba

obama cuba

 

RJ Matson, Roll Call

Obama’s Cuba

Obama Cuba

Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons

CARTOON: Obama and Castro

Obama and Castro

 

Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

Even Federal Employees Less Happy Under Obama’s Second Term

report released Tuesday reveals that government employees are significantly less satisfied with their job in President Obama’s second term than his first.

Federal employees satisfaction fell for the fourth straight year, dropping to the lowest recorded since the group began performing these reports in 2003.

The report assigned a job satisfaction score peaking at 65 (out of 100) during his first term, but this year that score dropped to 56.9.

“The steady drop in employee satisfaction from 2011 to 2014 may be the result of a number of factors,” the report states. “These include the 2013 across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration; three years of pay freezes; hiring slowdowns; numerous management missteps that garnered negative attention and criticism; and a partial government shutdown that resulted in the furlough of 850,000 employees.”

The study says that effective leadership is the most important factor in employee satisfaction.

The report ranked government agencies based on how much employees enjoyed working there. For comparison, the report separates out large agencies from smaller agencies.

Of the large agencies, NASA, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of State came in as the top three respectively.

The VA came in second to last place with the Department of Homeland Security in last, ranked 19th.

Meanwhile, private sector workers have significantly higher scores. They have a satisfaction score of 72 this year, the highest since the group began recording private sector scores in 2009.

This piece was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

Obama-China Global Warming Deal Already Running Into Trouble

What was hailed as an “historic” agreement between China and the United States to curb greenhouse gas emissions has broken down less than one month after it was announced.

China is already using its deal to cap greenhouse gas emissions as leverage to strong arm rich countries into spending $100 billion in “climate aid” to poor countries. Rich countries have so far only given $10 billion for climate aid — including $3 billion from the U.S. — which China says is not enough.

The “$10 billion is just one 10th of that objective,” and “we do not have any clear road map of meeting that target for 2020,” said Su Wei, China’s lead climate negotiator, according to Bloomberg. Su Wei added that global warming aid is “a trust-building process.”

“The significance of the China-U.S. announcement is that there’s a general understanding by the leaders of the two countries that climate change is a real threat,” Su Wei said. “A joint announcement does not necessarily blur the distinction between developed and developing countries. They announced their actions but that was in a different manner.”

Su Wei specifically targeted Australia’s conservative government for not giving any money towards international climate aid. So far the biggest givers of climate aid are the U.S. ($3 billion) and Japan ($1.5 billion).

“It is not good news [about] Australia, if it is true that they refuse to provide any money to the GCF,” Su Wei said, according to Reuters.

Last month, the Obama administration announced it had reached a deal with China to curb greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to fight global warming. President Obama promised to drastically speed up its greenhouse gas reduction plans, pledging cuts of 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

China, on the other hand, only promised to peak its emissions by 2030 — something which some energy analysts said was on track to occur even without a government pledge. China also promised to increase its share of non-fossil fuel energy sources to 20 percent of its power supply by 2030 as well.

Republicans criticized the announcement as being a “non-binding charade” that commits the U.S. to economically harsh cuts while China gets to keep emitting.

“In the President’s climate change deal, the United States will be required to more steeply reduce our carbon emissions while China won’t have to reduce anything,” said Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who will take control of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next year.

“It’s hollow and not believable for China to claim it will shift 20 percent of its energy to non-fossil fuels by 2030, and a promise to peak its carbon emissions only allows the world’s largest economy to buy time,” Inhofe added.

China is the world’s largest user and producer of coal and the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter — the U.S. is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter. But complaints about poor air quality in urban areas of the country have Chinese officials clamping down on some coal use.

Though after the agreement, China released a plan to limit coal use until 2020 and boost its use of natural gas and coalbed methane. Even under this plan, however, coal use will continue to grow.

“The share of natural gas will be raised to above 10 percent and that of coal will be reduced to under 62 percent,” according to China’s State Council. “Production of both shale gas and coalbed methane could reach 30 billion cubic meters by 2020.”

“Annual coal consumption will be held below 4.2 billion tonnes until 2020, 16.3 percent more than the 3.6 billion tonnes burned last year,” the State Council reports.

“China builds a coal-fired power plant every 10 days and is the largest importer of coal in the world. This deal is a non-binding charade,” Inhofe said. “The American people spoke against the President’s climate policies in this last election. They want affordable energy and more economic opportunity, both which are being diminished by overbearing EPA mandates.”

Su Wei did say that China would work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for every dollar of gross domestic product, reports Bloomberg. But his calls for emissions cuts were couched in calls for more climate aid to help developing countries adapt to global warming.

“We would redouble our efforts in terms of taking actions on climate change for the period up to 2020 and we would markedly reduce the carbon intensity,” Su Wei told reporters.

Su Wei’s remarks were made during the United Nation’s climate summit in Lima, Peru. The Lima conference is supposed to help set the stage for the next major summit in Paris, France in 2015 where diplomats will debate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

But questions over climate aid have derailed negotiations in the past and it’s unclear if that will be the case in 2015.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

New Defense Secretary

Defense Secretary

 

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Leading From Behind

Barack Obama leadership

Milt Priggee, www.miltpriggee.com

Obama Admin Plots New Teacher Training Regulations

Fed up with teacher education programs it believes routinely underperform, the Obama administration wants to compel states to start rating the programs programs based on how well they prepare students for the profession.

And teachers are not happy about it.

Recently, more focus has given to the perceived need to boost the quality of America’s teachers, especially in the country’s most struggling schools. Activists on every side of the debate have pushed a variety of solutions, from restricting tenure so that ineffective teachers can be easily fired to greatly boosting teacher pay so that better teaching candidates are attracted to the profession.

A new rule announced by the Obama administration on Tuesday night attempts to influence teacher quality at the source, in the country’s hundreds of different teacher education programs. The rule will, for the first time, compel each state to establish standards for evaluating and rating training programs for teachers. Programs that are found lacking in each particular state will in turn be punished with the loss of certain federal funds.

Currently, the federal government dispenses TEACH grants to education students who agree to begin teaching in disadvantaged schools after graduating. The grants are up to $4,000 per student and amount to over $150 million per year. Under the newly announced rule, TEACH grants will no longer be universally available, but will instead only be granted to aspiring teachers attending programs that are found to be performing well by their state.

Whether a teacher-training program is up to snuff will be based on a variety of factors, including what percentage of its graduates quickly find jobs, how well the program is evaluated by graduates, and, critically, how well graduates’ students perform on standardized tests.

The proposal to incorporate testing into the evaluation of teacher programs has many traditional Obama allies up in arms. Since students in disadvantaged schools almost always perform worse on standardized tests, they argue, the rule could end up cutting off funds to the programs that are sending the most new teachers into disadvantaged schools.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the country’s second-largest teachers union, swiftly released a statement condemning the plan, saying it showed a lack of vision.

“By replicating the K-12 test-and-punish model…the administration is simply checking a box instead of thoughtfully using regulations to help craft a sustainable solution that raises the bar for the teaching profession,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. Weingarten added that the administration’s action would be ludicrous if applied to any other field. ”Would you rate the dental school programs that serve low-income communities, where patients come in with a high number of cavities, unsatisfactory? No,” she said.

The National Education Association (NEA), the country’s largest teacher union, was more charitable in its outlook, lauding the desire to improve teacher education but also noting that they “are opposed to the use of flawed tests and value-added measures to make high stakes decisions about students, teachers, or teacher preparation.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended the government’s proposal, telling the press that test scores are necessary to see whether students are improving under certain teachers. More broadly, he said, a federal nudge was needed because many states are failing to hold teacher education programs accountable in any way.

Foes, however, might be able to use the Department of Education’s own rhetoric against it. In a press release announcing the planned rule, the Department lauded recent efforts in over ten states to either collect more information on their teacher prep programs or hike the admissions requirements at the schools themselves. If so many states are making progress as-is, opponents might reasonably suggest that a federal intrusion is unnecessary and could potentially hinder further innovation at the state level.

Unhappy teachers will have ample time to work against the proposed rule if they so choose. While the final rule publication is planned for 2015, states would only be expected to start gathering the relevant data in 2016, and full implementation with the potential loss of federal funding will only arrive at the end of the decade, as Obama is leaving office.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Obamagration

Obama immigration Thanksgiving

Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle