WASHINGTON (July 11, 2001) - House Republican leaders launched a new assault on public health and the environment today in the form of two pro-industry energy bills. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering a bill sponsored by Louisiana Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin that would increase power plant air pollution and squander taxpayer dollars to subsidize coal and nuclear energy, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Meanwhile, the House Resource Committee is reviewing an energy bill sponsored by the committee's chairman, James Hansen of Utah, which would undermine environmental safeguards and boost the energy industry's already bloated profits. NRDC today released a critique of the Hansen bill.
Tauzin's bill, "The Energy Advancement and Conservation Act," contains numerous provisions that would threaten the environment and public health. For example, it includes costly financial credits for so-called clean coal technologies that would increase coal-fired power plant pollution. Coal-fired power plants emit more dangerous air pollution -- including more than 60 toxic chemicals -- than any other industry, contributing to asthma, mercury poisoning, acid rain and global warming. Rather than mandate new reductions in coal-generated air emissions, the bill would reward coal companies merely for meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
"Billy Tauzin's bill handsomely rewards the coal industry while failing to support sensible and achievable improvements in energy efficiency," said Alyssondra Campaigne, NRDC's legislative director. "The bill offers no relief for consumers facing high energy bills, but guarantees they will be breathing more toxic air pollution."
Campaigne acknowledged that Tauzin's bill does contain modest provisions for energy efficiency, but pointed out that those provisions hardly represent a comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy package. By failing to require comprehensive controls on power plant pollution -- including carbon dioxide -- the bill ignores the link between global warming and energy production. The bill also lacks strong efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, funding to enhance investment in energy efficiency programs, and a requirement that 20 percent of the nation's energy be derived from renewable energy by 2020. Moreover, the bill fails to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the single biggest step Congress can take to reduce global warming and curb our nation's appetite for finite oil resources. NRDC says that increasing CAFE requirements to 40-miles per gallon would save drivers $10 billion in fuel costs annually and 3 million barrels of oil per day, as well as reduce carbon dioxide pollution by nearly 2 million tons over 10 years.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton testified in support of Hansen's bill, "The Energy Security Act" (H.R.2436), at a House Resource Committee hearing this morning. The bill calls for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and other environmentally sensitive public lands that are currently off-limits to oil and gas development. In addition to overriding federal environmental protections on public lands, the bill would allow the oil and gas industry to seek federal reimbursement for application costs associated with drilling on public lands, as well as for the costs of mandatory environmental compliance for oil, gas and geothermal development.
"Americans want affordable energy and a clean environment, both of which can be achieved through a balanced national energy plan," said Campaigne. "But the Hansen bill is a payback to the energy industry, which shoveled millions into Republican campaign coffers last year. Our energy policy should not focus on padding industry profits at the expense of environmental protection."
Earlier this year NRDC published a comprehensive energy plan, "A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century," which shows that we can meet U.S. energy needs -- without rolling back environmental safeguards or despoiling pristine wilderness and marine areas -- through greater reliance on natural gas, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.
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 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.