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Senate Stands Up for Consumers, Environment by Voting Down Disgraceful Energy Bill

Nov. 21, 2003

Senate Stands Up for Consumers, Environment by Voting Down Disgraceful Energy Bill

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Consumers should be grateful to senators who wisely stood up to the president, Republican congressional leaders and big energy companies to stave off passage of a disgraceful energy bill that is laden with corporate pork and packed with measures to allow corporations to pollute more with less accountability. They have voted against selling out citizens to big corporations in exchange for campaign cash.

This entire process, which began with Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force meeting secretly with corporate lobbyists, highlights a dangerous trend in our democratic process – one in which citizens are shut out and politically entrenched corporations dictate policy behind closed doors. The manner in which the conference report was crafted was shockingly undemocratic. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) hijacked the energy conference, crafting legislation with virtually no voice from the other members of the committee and slipping in special interest provisions that were not part of either the House or Senate energy bills. In addition, this bill is larded with $25 billion in obscene taxpayer giveaways to the some of the wealthiest companies in the world. In exchange for millions in campaign donations, energy companies would be rewarded with tens of billions in government handouts. Our national energy policy should not be developed behind closed doors by the White House and a handful of members of Congress huddling with wealthy energy lobbyists who fund the Republican Party.

This legislation does nothing to solve the nation’s most pressing energy problems. Instead, it would make them worse. Rather than beginning to wean our economy off oil by improving fuel economy standards, it makes us even more dependent. Rather than protecting consumers from Enron-style price-gouging and market manipulation, it abolishes the Public Utility Holding Company Act and opens the door for further malfeasance in the electricity sector. Rather than move the nation toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, it further solidifies control by old-style, polluting industries. Rather than helping Americans use energy more efficiently, it provides billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury for uneconomic nuclear plants when we already have more electricity capacity than we need.

We urge Congress to develop an energy policy that will innovatively address the real needs of consumers and the environment, rather than simply rewarding energy executives who have proven in recent years that they care only about lining their own pockets at the expense of the American public.