Press Release: Thune Bill Provides Incentive to Hire Long-Term Unemployed Americans

Thune Bill Provides Incentive to Hire Long-Term Unemployed Americans

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced S. 38, the Helping Individuals Regain Employment Act (HIRE Act), a bill that would provide an incentive for employers to hire long-term unemployed Americans by permanently exempting those employees from the government-mandated ObamaCare employee count.

“The HIRE Act is a win-win for employers and long-term unemployed Americans who continue to feel the pain from ObamaCare and six years of President Obama’s failed economic policies,” said Thune. “Congress should be doing all it can to enact policies that help unemployed Americans find good-paying jobs, and ObamaCare shouldn’t stand in the way.”

Under ObamaCare, any business with 100 or more full-time employees must provide government-approved insurance or pay a fine in 2015. Beginning in 2016, any business with 50 or more full-time employees must comply with the mandate.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 9.1 million unemployed Americans, of which 2.8 million have been unemployed for 27 or more weeks. While the official unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, the “real” unemployment rate, which considers the number of people who have stopped looking for work, is 11.4 percent.

The HIRE Act was originally included in Thune’s “Good Jobs, Good Wages, Good Hours Act,” which he introduced last year as an alternative to the unemployment insurance extension bill.


Photo Release: New South Dakota Delegation

Photo Release: New South Dakota Delegation

114SDDelegationWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) joined for the first photo in the 114th Congress of the new South Dakota delegation this morning in Washington, D.C. This Congress marks the first time since 1962 that South Dakota is represented by an all-Republican delegation.


Press Release: Thune Calls on Obama EPA to Withdraw Backdoor National Energy Tax

Thune Calls on Obama EPA to Withdraw Backdoor National Energy Tax
-Power plant rule will slam South Dakota rate payers-

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on the EPA to withdraw its proposed regulations on exiting power plants, citing the significant financial burdens it will impose on South Dakota consumers, as well as technical infeasibilities that will drive up energy costs and threaten grid reliability.

“The Obama administration’s proposed power plant regulation is yet another example of presidential executive action that Americans clearly rejected in November as it will hurt jobs and increase costs,” said Thune. “The president’s proposed regulation is a national, backdoor energy tax that will slam South Dakota rate payers—especially low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes. Affordable and reliable energy provides essential comforts for families across the country this winter and powers American industries to build a stronger economy. Yet the EPA’s proposal will make electricity rates skyrocket and stifle economic growth. I continue to urge Administrator McCarthy to reconsider.”

On June 2, 2014, the EPA proposed the Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, or Clean Power Plan, requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030. Under the proposed rule, South Dakota power plants must reduce carbon dioxide emission rates 35 percent by 2030 based on emission levels from 2012. This reduction mandate is more stringent than the national average for the EPA’s proposed reductions. According to testimony provided to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission in July of 2014, South Dakota consumers could see their electricity bills increase by as much as 90 percent on account of this regulation.

Full text of the senator’s letter is available below:

January 6, 2015

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Headquarters – William J. Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I am writing to strongly encourage additional review of the technical feasibility of South Dakota’s emissions reduction target under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, also known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP).  As you know, affordable and reliable energy helps grow the economy and helps low- and middle-income families make ends meet.  Unfortunately, the CPP will only increase electrical rates and hurt those who can afford it the least.

The CPP fails to recognize South Dakota’s unique energy profile, making compliance not only technically infeasible, but incredibly costly to consumers and damaging to South Dakota’s economic base.  For example, South Dakota is not fully credited for its robust renewable energy production, which totaled approximately 74 percent of all in-state electricity production in 2012.  Additionally, South Dakota has a single coal-fired steam electric generating unit (EGU) and only one natural gas combined-cycle plant (NGCC), which serve different Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs).  As I will detail below, each of these EGUs and the customers they serve fall victim to misguided assumptions under the CPP’s formula for calculating state emission targets.  The remaining building blocks of the CPP raise additional issues that will impose significant burdens to South Dakota rate payers.

Block I:  Coal Plant Efficiency

Improving heat-rate efficiency by six percent at South Dakota’s only large coal-fired EGU, the Big Stone Plant, is not feasible.  The facility, which provides affordable power to thousands in South Dakota and neighboring states, is in the midst of an approximately $400 million environmental upgrade project to meet the EPA’s Regional Haze regulations.  This investment actually decreases the heat-rate efficiency of the plant by approximately two percent when fully online, working against the six percent heat rate improvement for the plant required by Block I.  Because this major development cannot be factored into the CPP’s rubric for South Dakota, the Big Stone Plant will be required to effectively improve its heat-rate efficiency by eight percent.  Such a goal is technically unachievable because the Big Stone Plant is already implementing best practices and upgrades to achieve efficiency gains.  Additionally, the Big Stone Plant exports steam to an area ethanol producer, which it may stop doing on account of the target for heat rate improvement required by the CPP.

Block II suggests that coal-fired generation can be pared down with natural gas power re-dispatched in its place.  However, such a strategy runs contrary to the efficiency goals of Block I because the Big Stone Plant was designed to operate at a high capacity factor, and lower loads reduce efficiency.  In other words, the constant start-ups and shutdowns of the coal-fired EGU imposed by Block II will result in less efficient operations of the plant, increased stress to mechanical systems, and higher maintenance costs—all of which are in direct contradiction to the efficiency mandates of Block I.

Additionally, operating the Big Stone Plant on a limited or seasonal basis will result in a stranded asset because the $400 million upgrade required by the EPA, which is more than the original cost of the plant, will not have fully depreciated by the time the CPP requires the plant to shutter for most of the year.  The EPA rightfully states that the CPP should not result in stranded assets, which equate to higher utility costs for consumers, less grid reliability, fewer jobs, and in the case of the Big Stone Plant, limited ability to recoup the investment in a manner that isn’t punitive to South Dakota ratepayers.

Block II:  Natural Gas and Multiple RTOs

Block II dictates that NGCC EGUs operate up to a 70 percent capacity factor to meet energy demands as coal-fired generation is retired or limited.  This is a blanket provision that fails to account for unique circumstances in each state.  For example, in determining the amount of energy South Dakota’s singular NGCC EGU produced in 2012, the CPP should recognize that Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Deer Creek Station was largely under construction in 2012 and only operated approximately 90 hours for testing and other start-up procedures.  The CPP uses Deer Creek Station’s actual 2012 capacity factor of a mere one percent in calculating South Dakota’s required carbon emission rate reduction.  I believe a fair assessment would recognize the Deer Creek station as “under construction” and reassign an assumed capacity factor of 55 percent in 2012.  Such a recalculation would be consistent with reality and the EPA’s vow to make the CPP flexible.

One of the most glaring issues of the CPP is that it fails to recognize the composition of America’s electric grid.  Electricity is not produced and consumed solely within state lines, but sold, dispatched, and consumed across state lines through RTOs.  Big Stone Plant is dispatched primarily by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc., serving customers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  Deer Creek Station is presently dispatched by the Western-Integrated System, but recent agreements will dispatch it to the Southwest Power Pool in the future.  Because the electric generation at one EGU cannot simply be reduced at one location and re-dispatched from another across RTOs, Block II again proves technically infeasible for South Dakota.  While the CPP provides that states can work in multi-state agreements, the EPA has not demonstrated it has the legal authority to require EGUs to coordinate generation, let alone proven the feasibility of multi-state partnerships involving multiple RTOs.

Block III:  Renewable Power Sources

It is also concerning that hydroelectric generation is not included in baseline calculations for Block III of the CPP.  Failure to include hydroelectric generation denies a comprehensive consideration of South Dakota’s diverse energy portfolio and unfairly skews South Dakota’s emission reduction target.  In the CPP’s baseline year of 2012, South Dakota produced

74 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and only three states produced fewer carbon emissions.  As of August 2014, my state generates 546 GWh from hydroelectric and 121 GWh from wind sources.[1]  All renewable energy deserves inclusion in the EPA’s calculations for establishing our emission reduction target.

Additionally, much of South Dakota’s hydro and wind power is exported to other states.  It was discouraging to learn that South Dakota will not get credit for its existing renewable resources and future renewable resources on account that this power is sold to consumers out of state.  Renewable power produced in South Dakota should count toward meeting the emission reduction goal for South Dakota.

Block IV:  Consumer Energy Efficiency

The CPP will also interfere with and potentially discourage demand-side electricity consumption programs.  For example, as many as 250 electric cooperatives in 34 states, including South Dakota, have implemented voluntary demand response initiatives for electric resistance water heaters that reduce energy demand during peak hours.  On account of efforts like this, electric cooperatives account for 20 percent of national peak reduction, even though they manage only 10 percent of retail electricity sales.  Under the CPP, many of South Dakota’s utilities would not receive credit for demand-side management programs that have been in place for years, and it is unclear which states will receive credit for demand-side management programs that result in emissions from out-of-state power plants.  If South Dakota ratepayers take the initiative to participate in these programs, South Dakota’s emission target under the CPP should reflect their participation.

Moreover, the EPA has signaled that the CPP will credit Renewable Energy Certificates to states that receive electricity, rather than those that generate it.  Such unfavorable treatment of utility-scale renewable energy projects will remove incentives for investment.  Consumers should receive credit for their investments that reduce emissions.


The EPA’s CPP will pass significant costs onto hard-working South Dakota families.  In my home state alone, families earning less than $50,000 per year already spend one-fifth of their after tax income on energy costs, which is double the national average.  The CPP is a regressive national energy tax that will disproportionately fall on the elderly, the poor, and those on fixed incomes.  According to testimony at a roundtable hosted by the South Dakota Public Utility Commission in July, some South Dakotans will see their electricity rates almost double as a result of the CPP disproportionately impacting the Midwest.  Additionally, the CPP will impose increased costs to U.S. manufacturers, impeding economy growth and investment, all in return for virtually no impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration or global temperatures.

For these reasons, I urge the EPA to withdraw the CPP due to the serious economic burden it will impose on South Dakota consumers.  At a minimum, the EPA should reconsider South Dakota’s emission reduction target to more accurately reflect our existing energy portfolio and the investments of utilities and ratepayers have already made in efficiency upgrades, renewable energy production, and demand-side energy management programs.  I appreciate your consideration of this important matter and look forward to your timely response.

Kindest Regards,




US Senator John Thune on what the Republican Majority will do

Nice opinion piece at from South Dakota US Senator John Thune on what the new Republican Majority in the Senate will bring to Washington. Mainly forward momentum for the first time in years:

The new Republican majority will get right to work on job-creating legislation, starting with legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which the President’s own State Department has admitted will support more than 42,000 jobs during construction. Keystone XL enjoys bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, and I hope the President will finally sign off on this job-creating project.

Republicans will also take up two other bipartisan jobs measures that were stuck in the Democrat-led Senate for far too long. We are committed to repealing the job-killing Obamacare medical device tax, a tax on life-saving medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps. This tax has already eliminated thousands of jobs in the medical device industry, and it’s on track to eliminate thousands more if it isn’t repealed. Given the economic stagnation of the past six years, the last thing our economy needs is a tax that is eliminating thousands of jobs.

Republicans will also work to repeal the Obamacare provision that changed the definition of full-time employment from 40 hours a week to 30 hours. This provision has forced countless businesses to cut back on hiring or reduce workers’ hours and wages, which has meant fewer jobs and opportunities for American workers. Eliminating this provision has bipartisan support, and Republicans look forward to taking it up this year.

Read it all here.

US Senator Thune’s Weekly Column: New Priorities and Goals for a New Year

New Priorities and Goals for a New Year
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune_official_photoIt is about this time every year that people start planning for new opportunities in the year ahead. Some call them resolutions, but I prefer to call them priorities or goals. With both a new year and a new Republican majority in the Senate, I am eager to work on a number of issues facing our country.

With a Republican-controlled Congress and a Democrat White House, there are a number of bipartisan issues we can and should be working together on for the American people. These include important issues like approving the Keystone XL pipeline to create jobs and free up freight rail capacity, especially for agricultural commodities, reauthorizing trade promotion authority to ensure American goods are on an equal playing field in the global marketplace, and acting on bipartisan jobs bills that in the 113th Congress passed the House but were denied further action in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The two parties may not share the same vision or the same prescription for change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to work together to help our country move in a positive direction, especially with the stagnant economy under the current administration. I am looking forward as part of the Senate leadership team, including my role as Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, to help get Washington working again for the American people. The commerce committee will have the opportunity to address several issues important to South Dakotans including rural broadband, rail service, aviation, cybersecurity, and the long overdue need to modernize our telecommunications policy.

I am also eager to advance a number of important South Dakota priorities including final approval of the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC). For the past eight years, I have worked closely with the Air Force in its effort to expand the PRTC to ensure our B-1 pilots and crews in South Dakota can maintain the maximum level of readiness and save taxpayer dollars in the process. I am committed to working with the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration to open this expanded airspace as soon as possible to ensure multiple aircraft and crew can train together, simulating a more realistic combat environment with no live fire.

I also remain committed to reining-in the Obama Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overreach to protect South Dakotans from the devastating impact these EPA actions would have on American jobs and energy prices. I will also reintroduce my bill to block the controversial proposal to lower the ground-level ozone standard – the most expensive regulation in EPA history. Finally, I’ll continue fighting for South Dakota consumers by working to stop President Obama’s backdoor national energy tax, and the EPA’s effort to further regulate farms, ranches, and businesses by expanding its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.

I know South Dakotans continue to feel the weight of ObamaCare’s higher health care premiums and deductibles, canceled plans, and burdensome regulations. As families learn what their plans will cost them this year, opposition to the president’s signature health law will only continue to grow. I am committed to repealing and replacing the most onerous parts of ObamaCare with policies that lower health care costs for South Dakota families.

Because there is so much to tackle in this new Congress, there will be considerable debate about what to address first; but rest assured, serving the people of South Dakota will continue to be my number one priority. As your U.S. Senator I look forward to new opportunities to serve South Dakota in the coming year and wish all South Dakotans a happy, safe, and healthy new year.