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Efforts to Fix Energy Bill Face Uphill Battle in Congress

NRDC Supports Amendments to Save Oil, Promote Renewable Energy, Prevent Nuclear Proliferation, and Safeguard Drinking Water

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2003) -- With war raging in the Persian Gulf, Congress is once again debating energy legislation that does almost nothing to reduce our foreign oil addiction or enhance America's energy security. The House Energy & Commerce Committee will debate the controversial "Energy Policy Act of 2003" (H.R. 3) next Tuesday, April 1. Like the energy legislation that passed the House in August 2001, this latest offering provides billions in federal subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries while short-changing funding for energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy.

Several amendments to improve the bill in subcommittee were rebuffed last week. The following provisions will likely be voted on again during next week's full committee mark-up:

  • SAVING OIL: This amendment by Rep. Waxman (D-CA) would put the United States on track to save 600,000 barrels of oil per day -- roughly the average amount we bought each day from Iraq over the last five years. Since oil dependence is a severe economic and national security threat, even this modest step is critical to signal the country's willingness to break the chain of oil addiction.
    LOST in subcommittee by a vote of 14-7. OPPOSED by Reps. Barton (R-TX), Bono (R-CA), Burr (R-NC), Dingell (D-MI), Doyle (R-PA), Issa (R-CA), John (D-LA), Norwood (R-GA), Otter (R-ID), Radanovich (R-CA), Shadegg (R-AZ), Shimkus (R-IL), Tauzin (R-LA), and Walden (R-OR).

  • PROMOTING CLEAN ENERGY: An amendment by Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) would require electric utilities to increase their use of wind, solar and other renewable sources from two percent of electricity today to 20 percent by 2025. Developing our nation's cleanest and most abundant energy sources would reduce pollution, create jobs, protect consumers from price spikes, and decrease our reliance on dirty, unsustainable energy sources. More than a dozen states already have, or are developing such incentives; federal support would bolster their efforts and encourage other states to follow suit.
    LOST in subcommittee by a vote of 21-7. OPPOSED by Reps. Barton (R-TX), Bono (R-CA), Boucher (D-VA), Burr (R-NC), Cox (R-CA), Doyle (R-PA), Fossella (R-NY), Hall (D-TZ), Issa (R-CA), John (D-LA), Norwood (R-GA), Otter (R-ID), Pickering (R-MS), Radanovich (R-CA), Rogers (R-MI), Shadegg (R-AZ), Shimkus (R-IL), Tauzin (R-LA), Walden (R-OR), Whitfield (R-KY), and Wilson (R-NM).

  • PREVENTING NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROLIFERATION: This amendment by Rep. Markey (D-MA) would cancel the Energy Department's "Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative," which would provide $399 million over the next four years to deploy commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies by 2015. The agency's initiative would reverse a decades old ban on commercial reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, a technology for extracting plutonium from nuclear waste to power both nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. If the United States were to revise this practice it would set a dangerous precedent for other non-nuclear nations, which could use the technique to develop their own military capabilities. Commercial reprocessing also poses a serious terrorism risk. A reprocessing plant itself would constitute an extremely hazardous, and therefore tempting target for terrorist attack. And making weapon-grade nuclear fuel more available would increase the risk of it falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations.
    LOST in subcommittee by a vote of 21-4. OPPOSED by Reps. Barton (R-TX), Bono (R-CA), Boucher (D-VA), Burr (R-NC), Doyle (R-PA), Hall (D-TX), Issa (R-CA), John (D-LA), Norwood (R-GA), Cox (R-CA), Otter (R-ID), Pickering (R-MS), Radanovich (R-CA), Rogers (R-MI), Rush (D-IL), Shadegg (R-AZ), Shimkus (R-IL), Tauzin (R-LA), Walden (R-OR), Wilson (R-NM), and Wynn (D-MD).

  • PROTECTING AGAINST DIRTY BOMBS: This amendment by Rep. Markey would create an interagency task force headed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to track radioactive materials used in commercial industry that could be used by terrorists to make "dirty bombs."
    LOST in subcommittee by a vote of 18-12. OPPOSED by Reps. Barton (R-TX), Bono (R-CA), Burr (R-NC), Cox (R-CA), Fossella (R-NY), Hall (D-TX), Issa (R-CA), Norwood (R-GA), Otter (R-ID), Pickering (RMS), Radanovich (R-CA), Rogers (R-MI), Shadegg (R-AZ), Shimkus (R-IL), Tauzin (R-LA), Walden (R-OR), Whitfield (R-KY), and Wilson (R-NM).

  • KEEPING OUR WATER DIESEL FUEL-FREE: This amendment by Rep. Waxman would prohibit the use of diesel fuel in an oil and gas recovery process (known as "hydraulic fracturing") that contaminates drinking water. The Bush administration and its Republican allies in Congress favor exempting industry from Safe Drinking Water Act protections when they engage in this practice, which involves injecting diesel fuel -- a known carcinogen -- down wells and into underground aquifers in order to force out methane gas. Essentially, this allows the oil and gas industry to dump diesel fuel in our water supply. The U.S. EPA's National Drinking Water Advisory Council unanimously passed a resolution last December recommending that the Bush administration eliminate the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing.
    LOST in subcommittee by a vote of 17-7. OPPOSED by Reps. Barton (R-TX), Bono (R-CA), Burr (R-NC), Cox (R-CA), Fossella (R-NY), Issa (R-CA), John (D-LA), Norwood (R-GA), Otter (R-ID), Pickering (R-MS), Radanovich (R-CA), Rogers (R-MI), Shadegg (R-AZ), Shimkus (R-IL), Tauzin (R-LA), Whitfield (R-KY), and Wilson (R-NM).

"Taking up this legislation on April Fools' Day won't trick the public into thinking that the bill lays out a promising energy future for America," said Alys Campaigne, NRDC's legislative director. "The amendments being offered would significantly improve the energy bill by bolstering America's national security, reducing our reliance on oil imports, and protecting our environment. How could members of Congress be against that?"

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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