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By Passing Last Year’s Flawed Energy Bill, Senate Takes Huge Step Backward

Aug. 1, 2003

By Passing Last Year’s Flawed Energy Bill, Senate Takes Huge Step Backward

Statement of Lisa Gue, Policy Analyst, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

The U.S. Senate’s sudden decision to drag last year’s energy bill from the shelf and pass it is truly a step backward – not just because it resurrects last year’s bad ideas, but because the measure reads like an industry wish list. The measure approved sells out consumers with a losing medley of provisions that fail to promote safe, clean, affordable energy. This legislation was bad last year, is still bad this year, and is only poised to get worse in the pending conferencing process.


This legislation toes the line of the Bush administration’s energy plan, which was hatched secretly with Enron executives and other energy lobbyists. It contains billions of taxpayer dollars in handouts to nuclear, coal and oil companies, including some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. It includes provisions to repeal a vital electricity consumer protection law, the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), which will advance the destructive path of deregulation and encourage the same type of behavior that gave us Enron and the California energy crisis.

Although deregulation is just one ingredient of the Republican-led energy plan, it is central to an ideology that promotes corporate profits over consumer protection, leaving millions of Americans with the likelihood of higher energy bills and even less corporate accountability. Among the energy bill’s worst provisions:

  • It reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act, which caps the liability of nuclear operators in the event of an accident or attack, thereby making taxpayers responsible for nuclear catastrophes.
  • It authorizes the administration’s Nuclear Power 2010 program, which proposes to grant federal land and taxpayer money to energy companies for the construction of new nuclear power plants and promotes dangerous nuclear waste reprocessing technologies now banned.
  • It does nothing to increase the fuel economy of vehicles on the nation’s highways and contains provisions that invite the industry to sue to delay increases in the fuel economy standard.

Now, a Republican-led conference committee anticipates reconvening in September to push forward a retrograde energy bill filled with goodies for all their campaign contributors. Lawmakers should jettison this bill and start over again to craft an energy policy that truly addresses the needs of consumers and the environment, rather than the energy industry.