April 11, 2003
Dark Day for Consumers, Environment as House Approves Energy Package
Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen
In approving the Energy Policy Act of 2003 (H.R.6), the U.S. House of Representatives has abandoned consumers and the environment in favor of corporate energy interests. The legislation repeals important electricity regulations and does virtually nothing to minimize oil consumption while offering billions in handouts and tax breaks for some of the wealthiest and most-polluting companies in the world – even as budget deficits are growing.
The giveaways to big oil in the House legislation won’t lead to energy independence. The United States is already the third largest crude oil producing nation in the world. The problem is not that we don’t produce enough, it’s that we consume too much. Yet lawmakers rejected a sensible amendment offered by Reps. Sherwood Boehlert and Edward Markey to reduce demand by improving the fuel economy of cars and light trucks.
Lawmakers also irresponsibly rejected an amendment offered by Rep. John Dingell to preserve and strengthen protections for consumers of electricity. The bill rewards a fraudulent industry by replacing vital consumer protections with unregulated corporate control over energy markets, potentially leading to the kind of price-gouging that plagued California consumers after deregulation. It also pre-empts local control over power lines by giving federal officials the power to override state decisions and seize private property to build power lines.
Further, the bills put more people at risk by expanding reliance on nuclear power. It mandates bloated spending on nuclear energy research and development, commits taxpayer dollars to the construction of new nuclear power plants via the Nuclear Power 2010 program, and extends Price-Anderson insurance subsidies to proposed new reactors. These unjustifiable subsidies to a mature industry distort electricity markets by granting nuclear power an unfair and undesirable advantage over safe, clean energy alternatives. Moreover, provisions to fund reprocessing of nuclear waste from commercial power plants initiate an inadvisable reversal of U.S. nonproliferation policy.
H.R. 6 will not lead to safe, clean, affordable energy in America. As the Senate moves to consider parallel legislation, lawmakers should prevent these anti-environment, anti-consumer provisions from becoming law.