Editor: Public Citizen sent out the following letter endorsed by various consumer, public interest and environmental organizations, to all U.S. Senators on April 9, 2002.
Upon returning from recess, the Senate is expected to resume debate on the massive energy legislation, S. 517, the Energy Policy Act of 2002. The bill was seriously flawed to begin with, and it has only gotten worse since the Senate began debating it. Amendments that would have benefited consumers, taxpayers, public health or the environment have failed miserably. Amendments to reward and pamper giant energy corporations, on the other hand, have passed with comfortable majorities. As representatives of consumer, public interest and environmental organizations, we are saddened and alarmed at the prospect of S. 517's passage for many reasons, including:
The bill buys a one-way ticket to Enronworld by repealing the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), the federal government's most important mechanism to protect electricity consumers. In the wake of the collapse of energy giant Enron, consumers need more regulatory protection from the energy industry, not less.
The bipartisan fuel economy amendment to the bill was replaced with provisions backed by the auto industry. These provisions guarantee no fuel savings, hobble the Department of Transportation by denying it adequate funding for setting fuel economy standards, create 9 legal obstacles to issuing new standards, and exempt pickup trucks (one-fifth of today's fleet) from any new fuel economy standards.
S. 517 seeks to prop up the beleaguered nuclear power industry with $1.3 billion over four years in direct subsidies, another billion in tax breaks, and a reauthorization of the industry's taxpayer-backed insurance subsidy scheme, the Price-Anderson Act.
The bill would dole out $1.8 billion to subsidize the coal industry, and more than $2 billion to promote oil and gas production and other "core fossil research and development." In addition, the oil and gas crowd would get $3.2 billion in new tax breaks.
A groundbreaking renewable energy portfolio standard -- which would take concrete steps to utilize existing technology to advance clean energy -- was rejected. The bill's original weak standard has been watered down even further with exemptions, loopholes and phony definitions of "renewables."
Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) looms as the most high-profile, contentious issue in the energy debate. Some senators appear to believe that stopping drilling in ANWR will be sufficient to assure environmental credibility with the public. But it is clear that the emphasis on ANWR has been accompanied by a neglect of other major issues which are no less important to public health and the environment.
There also appears to be a consensus among senators that they must support energy legislation lest they get blamed for some future energy "crisis," reminiscent of last year's California fiasco. Yet supply interruptions and skyrocketing energy prices in California were caused by deregulation, and S. 517 further deregulates the energy industry by repealing PUHCA. Should similar circumstances flare up in the future, it will very likely will be because of the policies both ignored by and contained in S. 517.
No doubt, many Senators brought noble intentions to the national energy bill debate. But those intentions have failed to materialize in legislation currently under consideration. We urge you to recognize that S. 517 contains many provisions that will harm consumers, taxpayers and the environment. We urge you to oppose passage of S. 517.
ACT (West Paducah, KY) -- Action for a Clean Environment (Alto, GA) -- Air Water Earth (AZ) -- Alliance for Survival (CA) -- AndrewsNuclearWasteDump.org (TX) -- Arkansas Voices -- Audubon Society of Northeast Pennsylvania -- Black Rain Press (Durhan, NC) -- Chicago Media Watch -- Citizen Action, New Mexico -- CitizenWorks (Washington, DC) -- Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana -- Citizens Action for Safe Energy (OK) -- Citizens Advisory Panel (NY) -- Citizens Advocating Responsible Development (NY) -- Citizens Against Nuclear Energy-Dobbs Ferry (NY) -- Citizens Awareness Network (CT and MA) -- Citizens for Safe Energy (Hastings, NY) -- Citizens' Resistance at Fermi Two (MI) -- Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes (Monroe, MI) -- Coalition for Health Concern (Benton, KY) -- Committee for New Priorities (Chicago) -- Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (Livermore, CA) -- Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (Santa Fe) -- Connecticut Opposed to Waste -- CorpWatch (San Francisco) -- Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (Pleasant Hill, TN) -- Don't Waste Connecticut -- Don't Waste Michigan -- Earth Action Network (Los Angeles) -- Earth Day Coalition (Cleveland) -- Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining/Concerned Citizens of T'iists'ooz Nideeshgizh (NM) -- Ecology Center (Berkeley, CA) -- Energy CENTS Coalition (St. Paul, MN) -- Environmental Advocates of New York -- First Nations North & South (NM) -- Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (Santa Monica, CA) -- Georgians Against Nuclear Energy -- Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (Gainesville, FL) -- GRACE Public Fund (New York, NY) -- Greenpeace (Washington, DC) -- Hanford Watch (Portland, OR) -- Hoosier Environmental Council (Indianapolis) -- Indiana Forest Alliance -- Indigneous Rights Organization (Kevil, KY) -- Institute for Local Self-Reliance (Minneapolis, MN) -- Irvington Neighbors Against Indian Point (Irvington, NY) -- Local Power (Oakland, CA) -- Maryland United for Peace & Justice -- Native Environmental Justice Advocacy Fund (CO) -- Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility (Pleasant Hill, TN) -- New Jersey Environmental Lobby -- North American Water Office (Lake Elmo, MN) -- North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network -- Nuclear Energy Information Service (Evanston, IL) -- Nuclear Information & Resource Service (Washington, DC) -- NIRS, Southeast Office (Asheville, NC) -- Obed Watershed Association (Pleasant Hill, TN) -- Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (Occidental, CA) -- Persistant Organic Pollutants Working Group (NY) -- Protect Our Rivers Now! (Indianapolis, IN) -- Prairie Island Coalition (Minneapolis, MN) -- Public Citizen (Washington, DC) -- Radiological Evaluation & Action Project (Ewen, MI) -- Redwood Alliance (Arcata, CA) -- Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists (Brockport, IL) -- Residents for Environmental Safety & Security (McDermott, OH) -- Shundahai Network (UT) -- Sierra Club, San Diego Chapter -- Social Education & Action Committee (Englewood, CO) -- Southern Oregon Forest Alliance -- Southern Ute Grassroots Organization (Ignacio, CO) -- Standing for Truth About Radiation (East Hampton, NY) -- Stellar Sun (Little Rock, AR) -- Stewards of the Potomac Highlands (Wardensville, WV) -- Sustainable Energy Alliance of Long Island -- Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (Washington, DC) -- TACENDA (Marshfield, MO) -- The Utility Reform Network (San Francisco, CA) -- Utah Legislative Watch -- Valley Watch (Evansville, IN) -- Voices Opposed to Environmental Racism (Washington, DC) -- Waste Action Project (Seattle, WA) -- Wisconsin Community Action Program Association -- Women of Action (San Joaquin, CA) -- Women's Action for New Directions (Arlington, MA) -- Women's Energy Matters (Berkeley, CA) -- Yggdrasil Institute (Georgetown, KY)