FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Bad News About the Energy Bill

Energy policy is an important issue for America and one which my Wisconsin constituents take very seriously. Crafting an energy policy requires us to address important questions about, for example, the role of domestic production of energy resources versus foreign imports, the importance of ensuring adequate energy supplies while protecting the environment, the necessity for domestic efforts to support improvements in our energy efficiency, and the wisest use of our energy resources. Given the need for a sound national energy policy, a vote on an energy bill is a very serious matter and I do not take a decision to oppose such a bill lightly. In my view, however, the conference report we consider today does not achieve the correct balance on several important issues, which is why I will oppose it.

I have four fundamental concerns:

* This bill digs us deeper into a budget black hole;

* it fails to decrease our dependence on foreign oil;

* it rolls back important consumer protections;

* and, finally, it undermines some of the fundamental environmental laws that our citizens rely upon.

First, the costs of this conference report are staggering. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that enactment will increase direct spending by $2.2 billion between 2006 and 2010 and by $1.6 billion between 2006 and 2015. Additionally, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that this bill will reduce revenues by $7.9 billion between 2005 and 2010 and by $12.3 billion from 2005-2015. Plus, on top of the direct spending, the conference report authorizes more than $66 billion in federal spending, according to the watchdog groups National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and Citizens Against Government Waste. Our nation’s budget position has deteriorated significantly over the past few years, in large part because of the massive tax cuts that were enacted, and we now face years of projected budget deficits. The only way we will climb out of this deficit hole is to return to the fiscally responsible policies that helped put our nation on a sound fiscal footing in the 1990s, and that means making sure the bills we pass are paid for. To do otherwise is to simply dig our deficit hole even deeper, thus adding to the massive debt already facing our children and grandchildren.

Second, the conference report we consider today will do nothing to reduce US dependence on foreign oil. I cannot return to my home state of Wisconsin this weekend and say that I participated in a rushed effort to accept a 1,700-plus page conference report that won’t do a thing to increase our oil independence. The conference did not accept the 10% renewable portfolio standard passed by the Senate nor did it accept an amendment instructing the president to develop a plan to reduce U.S. oil dependence by 1 million barrels per day by 2015. I supported efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil when the Senate debated its bill, and I am extremely disappointed that the conference committee could not accept a reduction of 1 million barrels per day through 2015.

Third, the bill rolls back important consumer protections. The conference committee retained repeal of the pro-consumer Public Utility Holding Company Act ­ important New Deal-era legislation which protects electricity consumers. My state of Wisconsin is acutely interested in and concerned about the repeal of PUHCA and about ongoing abuses involving the unregulated corporate affiliates of regulated utilities. In addition to hearing from Wisconsinites, I have heard from contractors and other small businesses across the nation that have been harmed by unfair competition by affiliates of public utilities. I must say that I don’t understand how we can give the nuclear industry loan guarantees and over $2 billion in risk insurance but we can’t even give small businesses the assurance that unregulated affiliates of public utilities won’t unfairly out-compete them. I do, however, recognize the efforts of the Chairman and Ranking Member to protect language providing the federal government more oversight of utility mergers, which I very much support, and am grateful for their willingness to further look into my concerns on unfair competition by public utility affiliates.

Finally, the energy conference report includes provisions that significantly weaken our commitment to the environment and to the health of U.S. citizens. Section 328 of the energy conference report weakens the Clean Water Act by exempting certain oil and gas industry activities from compliance with both Phase I and Phase II Stormwater Programs ­ and in the process, rolls back 15 years of protection. This is not an insignificant issue: storm water runoff is a leading cause of impairment to our streams, rivers, and lakes. The bill also exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act and by doing so, risks contaminating drinking water supplies. Over 95% of Wisconsin’s communities and about 75% of Wisconsin residents rely on groundwater for their supply of drinking water. Nationally, approximately half of the U.S. population obtains its drinking water from underground water sources, according to the Government Accountability Office. Wisconsin citizens, and all U.S. citizens, deserve more than provisions that could threaten the water they drink.

According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the energy bill conference report includes direct spending of more than $2.2 billion over the 2006-2010 period, exceeding the amount allocated by the budget resolution.

Russ Feingold is a US senator from Wisconsin. These remarks were delivered on the floor of the senate on July 29, 2005.

More articles by:

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 12, 2019
Nino Pagliccia
Bolivia and Venezuela: Two Countries, But Same Hybrid War
Patrick Cockburn
How Iran Back Forces Are Taking Over Iraq
Jonathan Cook
Israel is Silencing the Last Voices Trying to Stop Abuses Against Palestinians
Jim Kavanagh
Trump’s Syrian See-Saw: From Pullout to Pillage
Susan Babbitt
Fidel, Three Years Later
Dean Baker
A Bold Plan to Strengthen and Improve Social Security is What America Needs
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Trump’s Crime Against Humanity
Victor Grossman
The Wall and General Pyrrhus
Yoko Liriano
De Facto Martial Law in the Philippines
Ana Paula Vargas – Vijay Prashad
Lula is Free: Can Socialism Be Restored?
Thomas Knapp
Explainer: No, House Democrats Aren’t Violating Trump’s Rights
Wim Laven
Serve With Honor, Honor Those Who Serve; or Support Trump?
Colin Todhunter
Agrarian Crisis and Malnutrition: GM Agriculture Is Not the Answer
Binoy Kampmark
Walls in the Head: “Ostalgia” and the Berlin Wall Three Decades Later
Akio Tanaka
Response to Pete Dolack Articles on WBAI and Pacifica
Nyla Ali Khan
Bigotry and Ideology in India and Kashmir: the Legacy of the Babri Masjid Mosque
Yves Engler
Canada Backs Coup Against Bolivia’s President
November 11, 2019
Aaron Goings, Brian Barnes, and Roger Snider
Class War Violence: Centralia 1919
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
“Other Than Honorable?” Veterans With “Bad Paper” Seek Long Overdue Benefits
Peter Linebaugh
The Worm in the Apple
Joseph Natoli
In the Looming Shadow of Civil War
Robert Fisk
How the Syrian Democratic Forces Were Suddenly Transformed into “Kurdish Forces”
Patrick Cockburn
David Cameron and the Decline of British Leadership
Naomi Oreskes
The Greatest Scam in History: How the Energy Companies Took Us All
Fred Gardner
Most Iraq and Afghanistan Vets now Regret the Mission
Howard Lisnoff
The Dubious Case of Washing Machines and Student Performance
Nino Pagliccia
The Secret of Cuba’s Success: International Solidarity
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Mammon: Amazon and the Seattle Council Elections
Kim C. Domenico
To Overthrow Radical Evil, Part II: A Grandmother’s Proposal
Marc Levy
Veterans’ Day: Four Poems
Weekend Edition
November 08, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Real Constitutional Crisis: The Constitution
Sarah Shenker
My Friend Was Murdered for Trying to Save the Amazon
Rob Urie
Left is the New Right, or Why Marx Matters
Andrew Levine
What Rises to the Level of Impeachability?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Enter Sondland
Matthew Hoh
And the Armies That Remained Suffer’d: Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide
Kirkpatrick Sale
2020: The Incipient Bet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Growing Ecological Civilization in China
Conn Hallinan
Middle East: a Complex Re-alignment
Robert Hunziker
Ignoring Climate Catastrophes
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Repatriate the Children of the Jihad
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Neoliberalism’s Children Rise Up to Demand Justice in Chile and the World
John McMurtry
From Canada’s Election to Public Action: Beyond the Moral Tumor of Alberta Tar-Sands
Pete Dolack
Pacifica’s WBAI Back on the Air But Fight for Non-Corporate Radio Continues
Steven Krichbaum
Eating the Amazon
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail