Garrett Gazette - October 22, 2007
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy designated to regions along the Eastern seaboard as National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETC). One includes Northwestern New Jersey. The NIETCs are meant to address concerns about whether our energy infrastructure can meet energy demands.
Regrettably, these NIETCs presuppose that the answer to our problems lie in building more transmission lines. On October 12th, I joined a bipartisan group of 30 Senators and Congressmen, who represent the areas through which these NIETCs will run, in writing to U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman to urge consideration of alternatives to building new transmission lines, such as using smart grid technology or higher conductivity lines or other demand side management programs. The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. Secretary:
With the announcement last week by the department designating two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors, which include our constituencies, we write to seek federal investment in energy efficiency policies and new technologies to advance our nation's electric energy infrastructure in the designated areas.
The designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors will force utility companies, regional transmission operators and even public regulatory boards to aggressively place the building of new transmission before the exploration of increased conservation and smart grid technology to meet electricity needs. We call on the Department of Energy to order an immediate study of cutting-edge alternatives using 21st century technology that can be utilized without resorting to the standard answer that building transmission infrastructure is the only solution.
We understand that the Department of Energy has already been investing in research and development of new technology to help upgrade America's energy infrastructure and reduce energy demand. This is a prime opportunity to put those efforts to work through a study examining possible savings associated with demand side management programs, smart grid technology or higher conductivity lines, among other options. Such a study also could provide possible rate restructuring options as well as demand side management targets to assist states, utilities and public regulatory boards considering new transmission infrastructure plans.
To build a reliable grid for the future, we recognize that we must start today to ensure America's economic and national security. With your partnership, the states and local regulators we represent can be better informed about measures available to them as they make decisions to help solve the congestion issues you have identified as well as protect our constituents' neighborhoods.
I am hopeful that Secretary Bodman will keep all options on the table to address these serious energy issues instead of focusing exclusively on building new transmission lines through the New Jersey Highlands.
Member of Congress
ISSUE OF THE WEEK: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON SCHIP
There's been an extraordinary amount of misinformation about the recent debate on the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Between the rhetoric and the photo ops, the true facts have been obscured and the real issues of access to health care have been ignored. I have written this response to an editorial run in Friday's Bergen Record, and I am hopeful the Record will print it:
I recently read Alfred Doblin's piece, "When Ideology Trumps All" and I can't help but state, that on several accounts, he's completely wrong and it's his own personal ideology that obscures the facts.
No child, not one, will be kicked off of SCHIP or will be denied its health benefits because I voted with my colleagues to reject the program's massive and misguided expansion. First of all, my colleagues and I voted to extend the program through November 16th. And, if Congress fails again to negotiate a good faith reauthorization, I will vote again to extend the current program. In fact, I've even cosponsored a bill that extends SCHIP for 18 months to give Congress- all of Congress: House and Senate, Republican and Democrat - the opportunity to negotiate with the White House and develop a bill that works for the children and the American taxpayers not for the politicians and their photo ops.
Regrettably, up to now, the Democrat majority has done everything it can to get the reauthorization passed their way - trotted out sick children, demagogued through every news outlet, vilified every opponent as ideologues and heartless individuals - they've done everything but set aside politics.
It's important to note that the Democrats' SCHIP proposal ends the program completely in five years. It is equally important to note that a number of independent studies conclude that their proposal would force people out of private insurance and into the government-run program. So, ask yourself, who really cares more? Is it those that lure children into a temporary program forcing them to abandon private coverage only to have it ripped away in five years? Or those that want to break down the barriers to access to quality care rather than kick the can down the road in a seeming act of compassion? To say this issue - on either side - is merely about blind allegiance to ideology is to oversimplify the issue to the point of doing a disservice to the American people.
The rejected SCHIP proposal was a massive expansion of federal healthcare entitlements - extending coverage to 48.3% of American families. In the end, it will actually saddle these very children with debt. Or, if the 61-cent tobacco tax is to cover the costs, will require that 22.4 million of them start smoking in the next ten years. The SCHIP bill contained "hospital pork" and other earmarks set to help specific Congressmen bring home the bacon to their districts. Still more would have been diverted from the children to make it easier for illegal aliens and some adults to access SCHIP benefits. Worst of all, this legislation failed to address the real problems with access to healthcare and instead just turned to the same old addictive tax-and-spend mentality.
Federal and state taxpayers must ultimately pick up the tab, and very quickly you start to realize that many of those to whom you have just extended coverage are the very ones facing the tax hike that financed the expansion.
Where is the Democrat majority's bill to hold down the costs of healthcare by enacting medical liability reform? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated that the direct cost of medical liability coverage and the indirect cost of defensive medicine increased the costs of government health programs by as much as $56.2 billion a year. This is to say nothing of the fact that the medical liability crisis is forcing doctors out practice. In New Jersey, classified as one of the nation's "crisis states," one in four hospitals has a hard time filling ER slots and other doctors are retiring or moving out of state to practice. All the coverage in the world won't help children if there are no doctors left to treat them.
Where is the Democrat majority's bill to help small businesses afford coverage for their employees? Nearly 60% of uninsured Americans work for a small business. But, calls for Association Health Plans (AHPs) that allow small businesses to build leverage with insurers for lower cost coverage and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that allow employees to use tax-free savings accounts to pay healthcare costs are regularly met with derision by Democrats. And, the Democrats show no signs of stopping the ever-increasing trend of adding insurance mandates to coverage.
The ideologues on the left seem immune to consideration of the consequences of expanding government programs as this bill would have done. The mentality is cover the children now, we'll figure out how to pay for it later. Regrettably, that's the same mentality that now saddles our children with mind-boggling debt related to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs. They all start with the best of intentions, but fail to see how far down the road those good intentions turn sour.
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