Largent, Markey Unveil Anti-Consumer Legislation

 

May 27, 1999

Largent, Markey Unveil Anti-Consumer Legislation

Electricity Bill Leaves Consumers, Workers, Environment in the Dark

WASHINGTON — The Electric Consumers’ Power To Choose Act of 1999, introduced yesterday by House members Steve Largent (R-Okla.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), fails to include provisions to protect electricity consumers, workers and the environment, Public Citizen said.

The bill would allow utilities to continue collecting from ratepayers over $200 billion in “stranded costs,” or uneconomic investments in power plants and other assets that require subsidies to continue operating. The utility bailout, already under way in nearly two dozen states, is keeping electricity rates higher than they should be.

“By failing to address the nationwide robbery of ratepayers, the Largent-Markey bill is nothing but a bailout of poorly managed utilities,” Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said.

The Largent bill would encourage each state to deregulate the sale of electricity, even though consumers in many states already enjoy low electricity prices. If enacted, the Largent-Markey proposal could actually increase the cost for electricity service for many customers.

Although the bill contains a weak provision for renewable energy, the bill is mostly silent on protecting the environment, even though the electric power industry is one of the nation’s largest polluters. The Largent-Markey bill ignores the fact that most coal-fired power plants are exempt from provisions of the Clean Air Act, which means that these power plants can continue polluting the air, land and water.

“Pollution from the electric power industry kills and injures thousands of people each year,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. “Electric power pollution also reduces the health and productivity of farmlands, forests, lakes and rivers. By failing to address these issues, the Largent-Markey bill threatens the health, safety and livelihood of millions of Americans.”

Few industries have as large an impact on workers as the electric power industry, yet the Largent-Markey bill says little about the needs for a well-trained workforce. Since 1990 more than 130,000 utility workers (about 25 percent) have lost their jobs.

“The Largent-Markey bill threatens the well-being of hard-working families,” said Charlie Higley, senior policy analyst for Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. “It also threatens the safety and reliability of the nation’s electric system — few workers mean longer power outages and less attention to safety.”

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