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Public Statements

Energy Policy Act of 2005--Conference Report

Location: Washington, DC



Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the Energy bill that the Senate will be voting on today. Unfortunately, I cannot support this bill.

The bill does include some worthy provisions. For example, the bill includes the major provisions of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Act of 2005 that I have worked on for years with Senator Dorgan. It includes my Dirty Bomb Prevention Act of 2005, as well as a provision that I authored to require backup power for emergency sirens around the Indian Point nuclear powerplant. It extends and expands the wind production tax credit, and includes a provision to help us continue to develop and commercialize clean coal technology. It will push energy efficiency standards of air conditioners and other appliances forward. It will establish mandatory, enforceable reliability standards, something that I have been pushing for since the August 2003 blackout. And it includes a bill I introduced with Senator Voinovich to create a grant program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to promote the reduction of diesel emissions.

In spite of these positive measures, I oppose the bill for two reasons. First, it contains a number of highly objectionable provisions. Second, it simply ignores several of our most pressing energy challenges, such as our dependence on foreign oil.

I won't list all of the problematic provisions here, but I want to highlight a couple of the most troubling. The bill includes billions in subsidies for mature energy industries, including oil and nuclear power. These are giveaways of taxpayer money that do nothing to move us toward the next generation of energy technologies. The bill accelerates the siting procedures for liquid natural gas terminals and weakens the State role in the process, something I am very concerned about, given the Broadwater proposal looming off the Long Island shores. As ranking member of the Water Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I object to the provisions that exempt hydraulic fracturing from coverage under the Safe Drinking Water Act and exempt oil and gas construction sites from stormwater runoff regulations under the Clean Water Act. Despite a long-standing moratorium on oil drilling off most of the U.S. coast, including the New York coast, the bill authorizes an inventory of oil and gas resources there.

None of these provisions should be in the bill. But the main reason that I must oppose this bill is that it simply doesn't address the most pressing and important energy challenges that we face. It is a missed opportunity to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, spur the development of renewable resources, and address climate change.

While the Senate-passed bill did not go as far as I would like in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, it did contain a provision that would reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1 million barrels of oil per day by 2015. That was dropped in conference.

The Senate bill had a modest provision to increase the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources to 10 percent by the year 2020. That, too, was dropped in conference.

In addition, the Senate went on record as supporting a mandatory program to start reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change. That is gone as well.

So as I look at the bill as a whole, I see a major missed opportunity. By the President's own admission, this bill won't do anything to reduce gasoline prices, but we know for a fact that it will give billions in tax breaks to companies like Exxon Mobil. It doesn't do nearly enough to push the development and commercialization of clean, next-generation energy technologies, but it gives huge tax breaks to nuclear power, a technology that has been with us for 50 years. And given what we now know about the looming threat of climate change, it makes no sense to make energy policy without integrating a cost-effective strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But that is exactly what this bill does.

In short, this bill simply misses the mark. It ignores our biggest energy challenges, subsidizes mature energy industries like oil and nuclear, and rolls back our environmental laws. I know it will pass today, but I will not be voting for it.

Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, I want to share my views on the final Energy bill conference report now before us. I regret that I will be unable to support this legislation, and I will explain my substantive concerns about the bill in greater detail. But, first, I want to comment on the process that brought us to this point because the process has been very different than the last energy conference report.

The last energy conference report to come before the Senate in the 108th Congress contained more than 100 provisions in the jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works Committee. In my role as the ranking member, I came to the floor to share with the Senate that the EPW Committee was not consulted in the development of any of those provisions.

That closed-door process did not occur with this conference report, and I believe that was due to the efforts of Senators DOMENICI and BINGAMAN. Though neither Senator Inhofe nor I were conferees, we were apprized of conference discussions. Our staff reviewed and provided technical assistance on provisions. For example, we agreed to revise the House's nuclear title to incorporate three nuclear bills reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee. We also worked closely on the ethanol provisions, given their implications for the Clean Air Act.

The Senators from New Mexico worked hard to limit the items in the conference report in the EPW Committee's jurisdiction. They faced a very uphill task. The House bill had many troubling environmental provisions that were strongly supported by House conferees. Unfortunately, though, many troubling environmental provisions were removed during conference negotiations, several provisions of concern to me and to several other Democratic members of the EPW Committee remain in the final conference report.

I say all this to make clear to the Senate that I am not opposing this bill on process, but on policy. It contains bad environmental policy. It is a missed opportunity with respect to our energy policy. It contains the wrong fiscal priorities with $80 billion in giveaways to the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries. And, for those reasons, I feel it is not the right energy policy for America today, and certainly not for the future.

I am deeply concerned that the conference report before us does not represent the kind of forward looking, balanced energy policy that our Nation needs. It does not go far enough in reducing our country's reliance on imported oil. Provisions to set a goal to curb our Nation's oil use, overwhelmingly supported in the Senate, were defeated. Provisions in the Senate bill to set a national goal to obtain 10 percent of our Nation's electricity from renewable sources were also stripped in the conference.

I have spent my congressional career promoting the use of renewable energy in our country. This Nation has abundant renewable energy sources, from wind to animal methane to geothermal, in every State, and it is in our economic and environmental interest to use them. It is very disappointing to me, as we stand here on the threshold of passing an energy bill that will likely serve as our country's energy policy well into the next decade, that many of the same polluting coal-fired power plants that were operating when I came to Congress are still operating without modern pollution controls. Though this conference report takes an important step by asking the Federal agencies to get roughly 8 percent of their energy from renewable sources in 2020, this should have been an economy-wide goal.

It also fails to substantively address many other important issues, such as climate change and the need to improve vehicle fuel economy to give consumers more affordable and less-polluting choices when they buy their family's next automobile.

But worst of all, this bill seriously harms the environment. During the conference, along with the majority of Senate Environment Committee minority colleagues, I wrote the conferees listing six of what I believed to be the most troubling environmental provisions of the House-passed bill. Several remain in this bill.

I am disappointed that the renewable fuels provisions in the conference report continue to differ significantly from the provisions that were reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee in the last three Congresses. The provisions that my committee reported were the ones contained in the energy legislation that the Senate passed this year and last year.

Though we know methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, is environmentally harmful, the conference report does not phase out its use.

The Senate bill would have phased out MTBE use nationwide over 4 years. The conference report contains no such ban. In addition, critical language allowing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pull future gasoline additives off the market if they caused water pollution problems was eliminated.

The conferees have included language similar to a provision in the House-passed bill that exempts oil and gas exploration and production activities from the Clean Water Act storm water program.

The Clean Water Act requires permits for storm water discharges associated with construction. The conference report changes the act to exempt oil and gas construction from these permits.

The scope of the provision is extremely broad. Storm water runoff typically contains pollutants such as oil and grease, chemicals, nutrients, metals, bacteria, and particulates.

According to EPA estimates, this change would exempt at least 30,000 small oil and gas sites from clean water requirements. In addition, every construction site in the oil and gas industry larger than 5 acres are exempt from permit requirements. Some of those sites have held permits for 10 years or more. This is a terrible rollback of current law and an unneccessary one. These permits have not been hampering production by these drilling sites, but they do protect the fragile water resources around them.

Section 327 of this conference report exempts the practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract coalbed methane from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This practice involves injecting a fluid under pressure into the ground in order to create fractures in rock and capture methane.

The primary risk with hydraulic fracturing is drinking water contamination that occurs when fluids used to fracture the rock remains in the ground and reach underground sources of drinking water. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, approximately half of the U.S. population obtains its drinking water from underground water sources. In rural areas, this percentage rises to 95 percent. In its June 2004 study, the EPA reported studies showing that 18-65 percent of injected chemicals can remain stranded in hydraulically fractured formations.

This is wrong. The American people do not want enhanced energy production at the expense of the environment, particularly if it jeopardizes their drinking water wells.

And, they also do not want enhanced energy production at the expense of their own pocketbook, especially in these times of high energy prices. This bill contains several very costly provisions that are more of a giveaway to energy companies than a guarantee of new energy for the American people. One of the most concerning of these are new provisions that provide risk insurance for the construction of six new nuclear power plants.

Now, I agree that siting an energy project is a risky and time-consuming investment. But this provision, in my view, goes too far. This provision would allow the Secretary of Energy to enter into a contract with private interests for the construction of six advanced nuclear reactors. Further, it authorizes the payment of costs to those private interests for delays in the full operation of these facilities.

The payments are up to 100 percent of the delay costs, or a total of $500 million each for the first two facilities. The next four plants would get a payment of up to 50 percent of the delay costs, up to a total of $250 million for each facility. This is a total of $2 billion.

The ``delays'' for which private interests can be compensated include the inability of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to comply with schedules that it sets for the reviews and inspections of these facilities.

If the NRC finishes its work on time, but the full operation of one of these facilities is delayed by parties exercising their democratic right to seek judicial review to ensure the safe operation of a nuclear facility in their community, the plant owners can be compensated while the case is litigated.

Nuclear powerplants are large capital investments and risky investments. But so are other energy projects. Just ask anyone who drills for oil, sites a windmill, or seeks to deploy a new energy technology. We do not provide any other type of energy facility this type of guarantee. And what a guarantee, while the Federal Government processes your permit, or if the Federal Government gets sued, the taxpayers will pay you, not for generating energy but for doing nothing.

This is an enormous Federal spending commitment, and one we really are not likely to be able to afford. The intent really is to put pressure on the NRC to approve these new reactors and get them on line. If that is our intent, we should do so without obligating taxpayers to pay for the appropriate process to get them sited and built.

I also am disappointed that the recycling tax credit provisions I authored to preserve and expand America's recycling infrastructure were stripped from the final bill. In a bill that provides $14.5 billion in tax incentives for energy production, these modest provisions would have gone a long way to encourage energy savings and job creation through investment in state-of-the-art recycling technology.

In conclusion I try not to support legislation that exploits our natural resources and pollutes our environment. This bill contains too many provisions that represent real departure from current environmental law and practice to garner my support. Other Senators who believe that we can obtain energy security for America while preserving our environment should vote no as well.

I ask unanimous consent that some additional materials clarifying my views on several bill provisions in the jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works Committee be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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