America's Future Under the Energy Bill: More Polluted, Less Secure, says NRDC

Statement by Gregory Wetstone, NRDC Director of Advocacy

WASHINGTON (November 17, 2003) -- Now that Republican lawmakers have finally released the energy bill, a contentious vote is expected this week in Congress. Below is a statement by Greg Wetstone, NRDC's advocacy director:

"The energy bill released over the weekend confirms what environmentalists had expected since Republican lawmakers began drafting the legislation in secret months ago. Rather than putting America on the path to energy security, the bill rewards energy companies with billions in subsidies while sticking taxpayers with the bill and the pollution.

"The White House released a statement from President Bush 'applauding Congress' for a 'good energy bill' that will make America 'less reliant on foreign sources of energy' and make our nation 'more secure.' (See the Washington Post, November 14, 2003.) I'd say the president is once again the victim of faulty intelligence.

"One thing we and the proponents of this bill can agree on is that it is indeed a 'compromise' measure. When the energy industry can lavish more than $100 million on President Bush and Republican lawmakers and, in return, reap over 200 times that amount in the form of tax breaks and federal subsidies, then surely ethics have been compromised.

"Without a doubt the bill also compromises America's energy security. The number one reason we need a comprehensive national energy policy is to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by investing in cleaner, safer ways to power America. On that score, this bill is a miserable failure.

"The energy bill is sweetened with a few renewable energy provisions but the overwhelming bitter taste of business-as-usual remains. In this case, business-as-usual means rolling back environmental protections to boost oil and gas drilling on America's last remaining wild lands and open spaces. It also means eliminating consumer protections and subsidizing construction of new nuclear plants that most Americans don't want popping up in their communities. And it means exempting polluters from laws that ensure clean water and healthy air.

"Particularly appalling is a new provision weakening the Clean Air Act that was inserted at the last minute behind closed doors.

"America needs and deserves a forward-looking energy policy that promotes energy conservation, provides more power from clean, renewable sources and tackles global warming. The energy bill before Congress today not only fails to deliver on that promise, but also takes us backwards.

"By sacrificing our health and leaving us less safe, this legislation was a huge waste of energy -- and it deserves to go down in defeat."

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.