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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Senate Debates Energy Bill
Fearmaster Cheney's prize creation, created in secret consultations with Ken Lay and Osama bin Laden (for all we know), is dangerously close to passage. All that stands between our current miserable energy policy and one that is much worse is a few key senators of questionable vertabral strength. At least six Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, have joined most Democrats in opposing the bill. Gregg described the bill as a "grab bag of special interest projects directed at benefiting one segment of the economy or one segment of the population at the expense of other segments of the population." Unfortunately, several Democrats whose states may get some benefit appear to be willing to sacrifice the good of the nation, while others just don't seem to have any spine left.

That's where you come in. Provide your senators with a spine by calling them today. You can use the toll-free Capitol switchboard at 800-839-5276, ask for your senator, and tell the staffer that you oppose the energy bill.

It's already too late for the House, whose Republican majority rubber stamps anything aWol and the Fearmaster want. But my congressman, John Dingell, did make an excellent statement opposing the bill; you may want to mention some of his arguments when you call your senators:

STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN JOHN D. DINGELL
RANKING MEMBER
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE


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THE CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 6, THE "ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2003"

November 18, 2003

This conference report is a partisan product, written in secret and kept from the light of day until the last possible minute. The result speaks for itself -- like a garbage can with its lid off, there is a strong stench from special interest provisions. There are, of course, some worthy items in various titles. But the report needlessly endangers the environment, hurts consumers, and provides unaffordable subsidies and tax breaks to selected industries.

This conference report does include the consensus electric reliability provisions that Democrats have supported. But the report may handcuff the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionís ability to prevent future blackouts, it repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 with its consumer and investor protections, it favors certain utilities, and it preempts states and local authorities on transmission line siting decisions.

The conference report shortchanges our rivers, as well, tilting relicensing process in favor of utilities by giving them special rights and procedures that are not afforded to other parties who have an interest in the use of public resources, like states, Indian tribes, sportsmen, or conservationists.

One of the more troubling aspects of this report is its direct assault on the Nationís safe drinking water supply. It weakens the Safe Drinking Water Act, forces state and local taxpayers to pay billions of dollars to clean up the MTBE manufacturersí mess, and requires taxpayers, not polluters, to pay for cleanup of contamination caused by leaking underground storage tanks even when the responsible party can afford to pay.

The bill contains a number of provisions which were not included in either bill and on which there is no legislative record at all, including some significant Clean Air Act rollbacks. The conference agreement includes even worse provisions outside the jurisdiction of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. For example, we are told that the tax subsidies alone will cost at least $22 billion -- compared to the Presidentís request of $8 billion, but I hear no complaints from an Administration that regularly objects to far lesser amounts for education, health care, and our Nationís veterans.

This bill suffered from a secret, one-sided process -- and the many flawed provisions are the result. I must oppose it.