WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) issued the following statement regarding the confirmed case of Ebola in the United States. The committee has been receiving regular, bipartisan briefings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the last several weeks and will hold a hearing on the issue in the coming weeks. Committee leaders recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell seeking more information regarding the outbreak and preparedness.
“Given the severity of the outbreak in Africa, perhaps it was only a matter of time for the first case of Ebola to reach our shores. Nevertheless, today’s news should serve as a wake up call. As I have said before, the response to this outbreak must be an all-hands-on-deck effort. This is not just an Africa or United States problem. This is a global problem. The United States has a first-class health care system and we will continue to take every step necessary to contain and prevent the spread of this disease and ensure the public health. But with the increased urgency of a U.S. case, our oversight efforts will play an increasingly important role, as will the efforts of all those involved in fighting the spread of Ebola. The committee looks forward to having a hearing with top administration officials in the coming weeks to ensure we are taking every necessary step and precaution possible.”
WASHINGTON, DC - The bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative has encouraged a rich, robust discussion over the past several months, with multiple hearings and roundtables in both Washington and around the country. Next week, the effort will continue with a roundtable in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) will host the event on Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be among the participants.
“This has been a truly collaborative and bipartisan effort from the very beginning. Every one of us has been impacted by a life-threatening disease in one way or another, which is why this work is so important,” said Upton. “Southwest Michigan has long been synonymous with cutting-edge medical research and care – from our nationally recognized hospitals and manufacturers to our most recent addition, the WMU School of Medicine. I am so pleased that Dr. Collins and Dr. Shuren have agreed to take part in this important conversation with health industry leaders right here in our own community. Michigan has an important role to play in this effort to provide more hope for families, and better treatments and cures for patients.”
For more information on the roundtable, click here.
WASHINGTON, DC – The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office today issued a legal opinion demonstrating that the administration lacks a congressional appropriation to use taxpayer dollars to cover insurance company losses in 2015 under the health law’s risk corridor program. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) requested the report.
“Following the law matters. We had serious concerns with the legality of the Obama administration’s plan from the get go, and the government’s watchdog confirms we were right,” said Upton. “Today’s report sounds the alarm once again on the administration’s efforts to unlawfully subsidize its health care law with taxpayer dollars. American taxpayers are already on the hook for a still-incomplete health exchange with a price tag that exceeds $2 billion.”
“GAO has confirmed beyond dispute that the Department of Health and Human Services has no legal authority to disburse risk corridor payments under Obamacare absent a congressional appropriation” said Sessions. “I hope this nips in the bud any ideas this overreaching Administration might have of paying out money not appropriated by Congress. Such expenditures would violate bedrock separation of powers principles in the Constitution.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee released a memo prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in February raising questions about the ability of the administration to make payments through the risk corridor program. Committee members Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have also introduced legislation to protect taxpayer dollars.
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee continues to build upon its bipartisan #RecordOfSuccess. On Friday, President Obama signed into law H.R. 594, the Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education Amendments of 2014. Health Subcommittee Vice Chairman Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) authored the new law to update surveillance, research, and education activities to reflect scientific developments and continue the support of research and patient support initiatives across all forms of Muscular Dystrophy. The signing of the Muscular Dystrophy legislation comes on the heels of two other committee bills being signed into law: one to improve pediatric health care and the other to boost hydropower as part of an “all of the above” energy strategy.
“The Energy and Commerce Committee continues to build upon our proud record of bipartisan success,” said full committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “These three latest laws join a growing list of over two dozen committee measures that have become law in the 113th Congress as part of our continued efforts to create jobs and spur economic growth, modernize government for the innovation era, and protect families, communities, and civic initiatives.”
Burgess added, “Since 2001 this important law has successfully changed the lives of families impacted by all forms of Muscular Dystrophy. Although we have made significant progress and current treatments can alleviate symptoms of the muscular dystrophies like Duchenne and slow muscle deterioration, there is still no treatment to reverse it and more work remains. This law will continue making a profound difference as we work to find better treatments and ways to expedite the approval of emerging therapies that will hopefully lead to a cure.”
The president also recently signed into law:
S. 2154 – Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014. S. 2154 is the Senate version of H.R. 4290, the Wakefield Act, which was introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Pete King (R-NY). The legislation reauthorizes grant programs that support the expansion, improvement, and evaluation of emergency medical services for children. The program supports the training and education of EMS providers and identifies innovative models that can increase pediatric care in rural and tribal communities. The bill also would support the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network that facilitates collaborative research on pediatric EMSC.
S. 276, a bill to reinstate and extend the deadlines for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving the American Falls Reservoir. Harnessing energy efficiency and innovation is a key pillar of the committee’s Architecture of Abundance energy vision for the 21st century.
As the Keystone Clock surpasses 2,200 days, the American people are still stuck waiting for the Keystone XL pipeline’s jobs and affordable energy. The Energy and Commerce Committee first launched the clock in February of 2013 in an effort to track the time since the Keystone XL application was first submitted at the State Department. Sadly, after more than six years of review, the administration continues to needlessly delay its decision on this important job-creating project. Despite the delays, Keystone XL remains a significant opportunity to create thousands of American jobs and establish a more secure energy future. Brigham McCown, former head of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, recently wrote in the Houston Chronicle’s Fuel Fix that, “With the growing supply of crude oil, building the Keystone XL pipeline only benefits Americans and the economy. Without the pipeline, we will lack sufficient infrastructure to continue to grow our production of crude oil and the resulting energy independence. Bringing oil to market via pipeline will remain the safest, greenest, and most efficient way to transport crude to market.” Keystone XL will bring more than just jobs to the communities along the route; it will also deliver millions in local tax revenues that will support schools, hospitals, and infrastructure projects. In its latest study of Keystone XL, the State Department found, “The total estimated property tax from the proposed project in the first full year of operations would be approximately $55.6 million spread across 27 counties in three states. This impact to local property tax revenue receipts would be substantial for many counties, constituting a property tax revenue benefit of 10 percent or more in 17 of these 27 counties.” In a January 2014 weekly address to the nation, President Obama declared, “This will be a year of action. I’ll keep doing everything I can to create new jobs and new opportunities for American families – with Congress, on my own, and with everyone willing to play their part.” The president made a similar New Year’s Resolution in 2012 when he promised to do “whatever it takes” to move the economy forward. The president’s rhetoric has rung hollow, as he goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid saying “yes” to Keystone’s jobs and affordable energy. Building the Keystone XL pipeline is the smart choice. It will support over 42,000 jobs, bring much-needed revenues to local communities, and deliver affordable energy. At 2,200 days and counting, it is time for the president to finally say #Yes2Energy. It’s #TimeToBuild this landmark, shovel-ready infrastructure project that is in America’s national interest.
WASHINGTON, DC – Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance Committee today sent letters to organizations representing Medicaid health plans seeking input on best practices related to access to and quality of care. The leaders hope to gain a better understanding of the role of managed care plans in Medicaid and learn from innovative methods used to serve different populations covered under the program.
The letter reads, “Today, the Medicaid program provides health coverage to more than 67 million people, with over half of those individuals receiving coverage through a private managed care plan that contracts with a state’s Medicaid program. As a result, we believe it is important for Congress to better understand the growing and evolving role managed care plays in the Medicaid program. … Given the emerging diversity and growth within the program, we are particularly interested in providing private sector partners the opportunity to benefit from the consideration of an array of successful models for patient care.”
The letters were sent to the Medicaid Health Plans of America, the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, and America’s Health Insurance Plans and were signed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Read the complete letter online here.
The Red Tape Factory
How EPA overregulation is driving up the cost of energy
By Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)
Since President Obama moved into the White House in 2009, his administration has been churning out spools of red tape. The Environmental Protection Agency is the administration’s biggest red tape factory, issuing more economically significant rules than any other agency and contributing to making energy prices more expensive.
EPA is now regulating at an unprecedented pace and at extraordinary levels. The Chamber of Commerce notes, “EPA has been writing more billion-dollar rules, each with greater costs, than ever before.” According to the Mercatus Center, the agency now has 135,921 regulatory restrictions in the Code of Federal Regulations.
While some regulations are necessary to protect the safety and well being of our citizens, many regulations have unintended consequences and can impose new hardships on those the government is trying to protect. New research from the American Action Forum suggests new Obama administration regulations will raise the cost of everything from food to health care to everyday consumer products. Just a handful of EPA’s new rules could cost consumers over $135 annually in additional energy costs alone. And a recent study from the National Association of Manufacturers estimates EPA’s potential new ozone standards could “cost the average U.S. household $1,570 per year in the form of lost consumption.”
Regulations have real consequences for real families, and it is the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable who are hit the hardest by cost increases. This is why it is so important that we fully understand all of the costs, benefits, and potential consequences of new regulations before they are forced upon the American people and our economy. Unfortunately, this necessary evaluation has fallen by the wayside during this administration. And Congress has been written out of the process almost entirely as rules are pushed through with little transparency or public debate.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has been on the frontlines in the effort to protect jobs and keep energy affordable. To ensure greater transparency and accountability in EPA’s rulemaking process — and to protect Americans from higher energy costs — the House of Representatives approved legislation last year to provide for additional oversight and review of the agency’s most expensive proposed rules. The Energy Consumers Relief Act, authored by committee member Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would prevent EPA from finalizing new energy-related rules estimated to cost more than $1 billion until the agency submits a report to Congress detailing certain cost, energy price, and job impacts. EPA would be prohibited from finalizing certain rules if the Secretary of Energy, consulting with other relevant agencies, determines the rule would cause significant adverse effects to the economy. This bill promotes a commonsense “look before you leap” approach to regulation, but the Senate has refused to take it up.
To understand the need for this checks-and-balances legislation, look no further than EPA’s new power plant rules. Since the passage of Rep. Cassidy’s bill, EPA has proposed expensive carbon dioxide rules for new and existing power plants that will fundamentally change our nation’s energy sector. The rules are estimated to cost the economy billions of dollars, and even EPA admits they will make electricity more expensive for consumers and businesses.
EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide standards for new power plants are so stringent they would essentially impose a de facto ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants in America. The rule requires coal plants to be built using costly carbon capture and sequestration technologies that have not yet been proven to be commercially viable, and notwithstanding express statutory prohibitions under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. EPA’s proposed rule for existing coal-fired power plants has even more immediate impacts for states and consumers. It requires states to submit for approval state or regional energy plans to meet federally mandated emissions targets. Asserting unprecedented regulatory authority, EPA is telling states how they can generate and use electricity. Implementing this new rule will force even more of the nation’s power plants to shut down and put thousands of workers out of a job, all the while raising electricity prices and diminishing America’s global competitiveness.
The committee has been conducting hearings and exercising oversight relating to the development of these destructive power plant regulations and the House passed legislation authored by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) to stave off their harmful consequences. The bipartisan Electricity Security and Affordability Act would require that any greenhouse gas standards set by EPA for new coal-fired plants be achievable by commercial power plants operating in the real world. The bill also provides that Congress would set the effective date for EPA’s existing plants rule to ensure that a rule is not pushed through without the economic impacts being fully understood and debated.
The bottom line: EPA is regulating too much too fast – and the results could be disastrous for consumers and our broader economy. There is simply too much at stake to let these rules slip by. The House will continue to put forward commonsense solutions that make energy more affordable, and conduct aggressive oversight to hold EPA accountable and bring greater transparency to the agency’s regulatory process.
To read the column online, click HERE.
Health Care Law’s Implementation Costs On the Rise, Enrollment is Falling, and Security Concerns Remain with Still-Incomplete Website
Just over one year ago, one of the top Obama administration officials responsible for implementing the president’s health care law testified that the website would be up and running starting on October 1, 2013. What came next was a “debacle” that caused headaches across the country – a more than $2 billion health care exchange that, to this day, remains incomplete and not fully secure.
Bloomberg reports, “The federal government’s Obamacare enrollment system has cost about $2.1 billion so far, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis of contracts related to the project.” The figure is likely to continue growing given that “healthcare.gov’s back-end connections to insurers aren’t complete.” Of course, then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised back in December 2013 that the back end would be ready in mid-January 2014, but ten months later, it’s still incomplete.
These costs are on top of the more than $1 billion that has been spent on the failed or failing exchanges in just seven states.
These increased cost estimates come just one week after Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner last week testified that enrollment in the health care law has fallen since the administration’s declaration of success last spring. Tavenner testified that as of August 15, 2014, there were 7.3 million Americans who had enrolled in and paid for coverage through HealthCare.gov, but reports from insurance industry officials indicate that the decline is likely much worse.
In the midst of all of this, HHS’ own Inspector General outlined the watchdog’s concerns about the security of the website. CBS News reports, “It concludes more work needs to be done to bolster security. Last week, the congressional Government Accountability Office released similar conclusions after its own review. … The hackers from the inspector general’s office found one ‘critical’ vulnerability during their security scans of the website, described as a flaw that would enable an attacker take over the system and execute commands, or download and modify information.”
There is more bad news for New England households and businesses as electricity supplier National Grid warns its customers that they can expect to see significantly higher power bills this winter. The company is urging consumers to conserve energy to prepare for the cold temperatures and high rates up ahead. Due to increases in the cost of electricity generation, National Grid expects retail power prices in Massachusetts to be nearly 40 percent higher this winter from the high prices of last year’s polar vortex. According to a recent press release:
National Grid recently filed with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to adjust electric and gas rates for the winter. The company’s electric customers will see a significant increase in their bills due to higher power supply prices (the cost of the electricity National Grid buys for customers and passes on without a mark up). Starting in November, a typical residential customer will see an electric bill that is 37 percent higher than last winter for the same amount of electricity used. Gas rates will be one to three percent lower than last year, but using more natural gas for home heating as the weather cools down means that gas bills will rise for most customers as they do every winter.
“With the chance of another cold winter on the way, National Grid is very concerned about what higher energy costs mean for our customers,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. …
A major contributing factor to higher electricity prices along the East Coast is the lack of adequate pipeline infrastructure needed to carry natural gas supplies to homes and businesses in the region. This problem is compounded by the fact that more utilities are switching from coal to natural gas as EPA regulations force coal-fired power plants to retire prematurely. According to National Grid, “With about half of New England’s electricity generation now fueled by natural gas, electric commodity prices have risen again this winter because of continued constraints on the natural gas pipelines serving the region, which decrease natural gas availability at times of peak demand, causing some generators to buy gas on the spot market at higher prices, switch over to alternate fuels or not run at all.”
To protect consumers against higher energy costs, the House has passed a number of bipartisan bills this Congress. This includes H.R 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, which would facilitate the construction of natural gas pipelines by cutting red tape and modernizing the permitting process. The House has also acted to protect a diverse and affordable electricity portfolio, pushing back on expensive new federal regulations that would limit fuel choices and make power even more expensive. According to the EIA, electricity prices are increasing at the highest rate in five years, and rates are expected to continue to climb as new regulations are finalized and implemented.
Access to affordable and reliable energy is the backbone of a competitive economy and vital to the health and well being of all citizens. The House has offered solutions to provide American families much-needed relief from higher energy costs, but all of these solutions have met resistance in the Senate. By acting today, and working to build the Architecture of Abundance, we can make a real difference in cutting the cost of energy and preventing future price increases. To learn more about the committee’s efforts to say #Yes2Energy, visit: http://energycommerce.house.gov/yes2energy.
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee is continuing its investigation into whether certain federal agency decisions concerning clean coal technology have complied with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05). The committee has been particularly interested in whether or not EPA adhered to this statute when the agency was developing its proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants. Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today wrote to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz seeking to examine DOE’s implementation of EPAct05 and the information DOE developed and provided to other agencies.
In the letter to Moniz, committee leaders wrote, “Information developed in our investigation has raised questions about EPA’s compliance with EPAct05, which strictly prohibits consideration of carbon capture technologies at facilities that have received federal funding to be ‘adequately demonstrated’ under section 111 of the CAA. In particular, both documents reviewed by Committee staff and briefings with agency officials indicate EPA was not aware of these statutory limitations when it was developing the proposed standards. EPA’s failure to identify and faithfully apply EPAct05 statutory limitations when it decided to propose standards for new power plants in September 2013 raises questions about the underlying quality and integrity of its analyses.”
The leaders continued, “The Secretary of Energy is responsible for establishing and carrying out EPAct05’s Clean Coal Power Initiative and for helping to implement certain EPAct05 authorized clean coal tax provisions. In light of this, we seek to examine the Department of Energy’s implementation of EPAct05 provisions relating to clean coal technologies and the information it developed for or shared with other federal entities relating to these provisions, particularly sections 402 and 1307 of EPAct05.”
“Our investigation to date suggests EPA completely overlooked the legal limits put in place by EPAct05 and the agency was caught flat-footed when the committee first raised these legal concerns,” said Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA). “Following the laws Congress sets is not optional, and our investigation seeks to fully understand the reasons for this apparent failure to faithfully apply important statutory provisions.”
The committee is asking DOE to provide the requested documents by October 7, 2014.
In addition to Murphy, the letter was signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), and full committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
Click HERE to view a full copy of the letter to Moniz.
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