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Bush-Cheney Energy Plan Fails to Protect Pennsylvania Consumers

July 16, 2001

Bush-Cheney Energy Plan Fails to Protect Pennsylvania Consumers

National and State Groups Fault Special Interest Policies

PITTSBURGH — Contrary to what Vice President Dick Cheney and Pennsylvania Republican politicians will tell people at an invitation-only “town hall” meeting in Pittsburgh today, the administration’s energy plan will harm the environment and consumers, two consumer advocacy organizations said today.

The Bush-Cheney energy agenda benefits energy producers at the expense of consumers, according to Pittsburgh-based Citizen Power and Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen. The administration s energy plan relies on old ideas and failed policies of the past. It has no price or blackout protections for electricity consumers. It suspends public health laws so power plants can increase emissions, subsidizes nuclear power and dirty coal, gives money for more oil drilling on public land, and reduces federal spending for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

“Dick Cheney and Gov. Tom Ridge are abandoning consumers by promoting Bush s energy plan,” said David Hughes, executive director of Citizen Power. “Bush s idea to suspend public health laws and replace local controls by expanding the federal government s authority to build new coal and nuclear power plants will do nothing to alleviate the energy crisis. Real solutions require energy producers to sell electricity and other commodities to consumers at affordable rates, and investing in proven renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.”

Some elements of Bush s energy plan already have proven to be faulty. In a May 29 speech to business executives, President Bush said, “We will not take any action that makes California’s problems worse. And that’s why I oppose price caps.” But prices have plummeted and no rolling blackouts have occurred in California since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) enacted price controls.

“President Bush was wrong to oppose price controls in California s electricity market,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Consumers have benefited from lower prices brought on by the increased government protection. The only negative impact of FERC s price controls is that the three major California power producers, which contributed $1.5 million to the Bush-Cheney campaign and inauguration and the Republican National Committee in the last election cycle, can no longer pad their profits by price-gouging utilities and consumers.”

Dismissing price controls, Bush and Ridge insist that markets alone will solve states deregulation problems and point to Pennsylvania s alleged deregulation success. But between April 1 and July 1, the number of Pennsylvania consumers using an alternative supplier dropped from 787,845 to 591,596. It was the sharpest quarterly drop since Pennsylvania deregulated its market in 1996 and indicates that rising prices on the uncompetitive wholesale market are resulting in little to no competition in the retail market.

“There is not much to boast about in Pennsylvania s electricity deregulation,” Hughes said. “Customers have few choices, and the only rate reductions were instituted through regulation. The market has done nothing to produce electricity more affordably for Pennsylvanians.”

Citizen Power and Public Citizen also fault the Bush administration for its lack of commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Bush claims that, in order to satisfy demand, we need to build 1,300 power plants over the next 20 years. But this claim is disputed by the president s own Department of Energy, which states that if existing energy efficiency technologies were implemented, 690 new power plants would be needed over the next 20 years. Unfortunately, Bush has proposed to slash federal spending on energy efficiency measures and has proposed scaling back Clinton-era efficiency standards for certain appliances.

“While administration officials use events like today s in Pittsburgh to talk about energy efficiency, they are slashing federal budgets for these same programs,” Hughes said. “We should be increasing investments in energy efficient technologies, not sinking billions more in taxpayer subsidies for dirty coal and dangerous nuclear power.”

While Bush speaks about the value of “state s rights,” his energy plan runs roughshod over state and local rights. Bush would limit the traditional purview of states and local governments to lay transmission lines by transferring this authority to the FERC.

“Expanding the power of this obscure agency, FERC, to seize property for massive transmission lines goes against the last century of electricity planning in America,” Hauter said. “Consumers and property owners are better served by having more, not less, control over energy planning decisions.”