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Variety of Groups Join Members of Congress to Advocate Spending for People, Not Corporations, When Writing Final Energy Bill

June 19, 2002

Variety of Groups Join Members of Congress to Advocate Spending for People, Not Corporations, When Writing Final Energy Bill

Groups: Fuel Social Programs, Don?t Give to Wealthy Polluters

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Members of Congress joined consumer, environmental and public interest groups at a press conference today in response to the naming last week of conferees in the U.S. House of Representatives for upcoming House-Senate negotiations on energy legislation.

Press conference participants demanded that the conferees not sell out the American public as proposed by House energy legislation, which offers nearly $34 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to wealthy and polluting oil, nuclear and coal companies. Nearly a dozen lawmakers stressed the importance of prioritizing people over wealthy corporations.

“One provision in the House bill would let companies that want to drill for oil and gas in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico forego paying royalties to the American people. The owners of these resources, the American people, get nothing. Zero. Zilch. That is unacceptable,” said Rep. Nick Rahall, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Resources. “If you are an executive of a major oil company, you would love the House energy bill. But if you are just plain folks, a person who pays for gas for your vehicle, you have to wonder why you should be gouged twice   at the pump and at the U.S. Treasury.”

Congress is currently struggling to find an additional $7 billion dollars to fund the commitments it made recently in the education reform bill. It will also need between $350 and $700 billion for a Medicare prescription drug plan. Yet the House measure offers, in subsidies and tax breaks, $2.6 billion to the nuclear industry, $5.8 billion to the coal industry, $5.8 billion to the private electric utility industry and $19.5 billion to the oil and gas industry.

A February 2002 report prepared by the minority staff special investigations division of the House Committee on Government Reform calculated the campaign contributions made by those industries in the 2000 election cycle and compared them to the dollar amount of the benefits the industries would receive in the House bill. The rate of return on the industries? investment was 47,700 percent.

The House energy measure also provides the industries with other special breaks. The government ? not the coal industry ? would pay the cost of industry applications to mine on federal land. The nuclear industry would get a boost by a provision that would promote the idea of building new nuclear plants on Department of Energy land. And auto manufacturers would get a huge break by not having to boost fuel efficiency of sport utility vehicles. Further, the bill does little to promote energy conservation or renewable energy sources.

“The House energy bill is yet another tax cut for the rich that does little to nothing to secure America?s long-term energy needs,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). “While President Bush and House Republican leaders are giving tens of billions in tax cuts to energy companies, they are cutting federal support to elementary and secondary schools by $90 million from last year. Their energy bill and their priorities are wrong for America.”

Added Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Science Subcommittee on Energy and a conferee for the energy bill, “The answer to America’s energy needs is conservation and increased use of renewable energy. Our number one priority must be the future of America?s working families. We must develop energy alternatives to stop our dependence on dirty, exhaustible fossil fuels, and in that way we will provide a healthy, secure future for our children.”

Also speaking at the event were U.S. Reps. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Hilda Solis (D-Calif.).