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Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization And Affordability Act Of 2006--Motion To Proceed--Continued

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE MODERNIZATION AND AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 2006--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - May 09, 2006)

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I thank my friend and colleague, the Senator from Alaska.

I hope to have an opportunity to get into this in greater detail than I will for the few minutes I have this afternoon.

There are certain points I want to make. That is, the waters around the area described by the Senator from Alaska, the Nantucket-Martha's Vineyard-Cape Cod area, has been designated a state ocean sanctuary and it is an unreplaceable asset to the people of Massachusetts. Up to 1986, it was generally recognized to be under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. In the 1970s, Massachusetts was concerned about potential development threats and made the entire area a protected state ocean sanctuary--where no structures could be built on the seabed and where no offshore electricity generation facilities could be constructed.

The legislation was passed easily through the State House. And the specific part of Nantucket Sound that is no longer protected by the state laws, because of a Supreme Court decision, is under consideration for national marine sanctuary status.

My second point, Mr. President, is that I am for wind energy. We all know we need it to meet our future needs, and we've seen the successes that onshore wind energy farms can be. We ought to have offshore wind energy, but we need to get it right.

The problem in Massachusetts is that we have a developer who's basically staked a claim to 24 square miles of Nantucket Sound back when there were no rules on offshore wind development, and then got the project written into the new law so the new rules won't apply to this project.

And the practical effect is that there will be no competition for the developer and that his application is being reviewed and processed before the Department of the Interior can even complete a national policy.

In the Energy bill, section 388 says:

..... the Secretary shall issue a lease, easement or right-of-way under paragraph (1) on a competitive basis unless the Secretary after public notice of a proposed lease, easement or right-of-way that there is no competitive interest.

The next provision says:

Nothing in the amendment made by subsection (a) requires the resubmittal of any document that was previously submitted or the reauthorization of any action that was previously authorized with respect to a project for which, before the date of enactment of this Act--

(1) an offshore test facility has been constructed;

Well, where in the country was there a project that had an offshore test facility?--only in Nantucket Sound. So this was a real special interest provision.

Because of this ``savings provision,'' the developers are pushing Interior to complete this review before the rules of the game are even established and before the ocean is zoned.

So while Interior is setting a uniform program--and deciding which sites should be used--this project is on the fast track. The developer and the developer alone picked the site.

And this is a serious problem. Look at what the EPA said about this project's draft environmental impact statement. They called it ``inadequate.'' That's from the EPA, the agency charged with protecting the environment.

And the EPA wasn't alone. Look at what the US Geological Survey said about Cape Wind's draft environmental impact statement:

..... the DEIS is at best incomplete, and too often inaccurate and misleading.

Inadequate--Incomplete--and too often inaccurate and/or misleading. Does this sound like project that should be on the fast track?

But because they've been written into the law, the interests of our state have been basically submerged to a special interest developer.

They complain about the provision in this bill that Senator Stevens negotiated with the House. He's right. He's trying to at least bring this back up for review under the sunlight and ensure that the interests of the state for safety and for environmental protection aren't run roughshod over.

The project's developer is the one that got the special interest legislation. This Coast Guard provision is designed to check that and preserve the public interest.

The provision Senator Stevens crafted tries to remedy an injustice the developer created, and at least let the people of our State be heard.

We wish this provision wasn't necessary, and it wouldn't be if the developer was content with following the rules that apply to everyone else.

That would have been satisfactory, but no, we are denied that equal treatment. We are prohibited from that. That is not right.

Our State went out and created the Cape and Islands Ocean Sanctuary as a protected area. Then the Supreme Court cut a hole in those protections, and now the interests of the State to preserve the fisheries and environment of the whole region is being undermined. It is being handed off to private interests. It's not right. We deserve to have at least a little fairness in this.

I will not take the time to list the various national marine sanctuaries, including the Channel Islands, all the Florida Keys, and other national treasures, like Stellwagen Bank outside of Boston, which I am so happy we have protected into the future.

The law says you can't build energy facilities in those sanctuaries and we shouldn't--and Nantucket Sound is just as important as those.

For 400 years the Sound was considered Massachusetts waters, and it was a protected by the people of our state.

In preparation for the 1986 Supreme Court decision that would specify that this narrow area would be carved out as Federal land, we took special care to get on the national marine sanctuary site evaluation list. We didn't want to take any chances then, and we're still on the list. At a minimum, no industrial project should be built there until we can resolve that status.

And now we have a developer who wants complete control over 24 miles in the middle of the Sound, even though no government agency has zoned it for energy development yet.

We know that the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy called for a comprehensive siting policy, and that Interior is now working on it. We endorse that approach completely, but this developer is undermining that.

And the American people should know just what this developer is getting for this no-bid, no-compete contract. There will be at least $28 million a year in federal tax benefits available to the developer that's $280 million over 10 years.

And in Massachusetts, the developer will be eligible for between $37 million and $82 million a year in price subsidies under the renewable energy credit program. That's $370 million to $820 million in price subsidies over 10 years.

Then there's the fact that the company will be able to write off the $800 million cost of this project off in just 5 years.

This is a boondoggle, and it's an outrage the developer's getting a no-bid contract to a public resource. We've seen what no-bid contracts can do, Mr. President.

Who pays when we talk about subsidies? It comes out of the taxpayers' pockets when we talk about subsidies.

It is a great deal for this developer. It is a great deal for his investors. It is a great deal for the venture capitalists. They will get so much money they will not be able to count it. But it shouldn't be done without the voice, without the consideration, and without the interest of the State, let alone the many groups that oppose this project and fear that it will undermine the safety, environment, and economic interests of the region for years to come.

I thank the Senator from Alaska for his hard work on this bill and this provision.

Let me ask the Senator--and I know the time is up--I understand if this proposal were for an LNG facility in Nantucket Sound, the Governor of Massachusetts would have the same authority under the Deepwater Port Act that we're seeking here for this project. Am I correct?

Mr. STEVENS. That is right.

Mr. KENNEDY. We need LNG and we need more energy sources, but if they had decided here to do an LNG on this site, the Governor would have a voice in that, am I correct?

Mr. STEVENS. I believe the Senator is correct.

Mr. KENNEDY. So this idea about having a voice on this makes a good deal of sense.

I thank the Senator from Alaska.

I yield the floor.

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