Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rhetoric Heats Up On Scaled-Back Senate Energy Bill

Jul 28: Yesterday (July 27), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), announced the Democrats' scaled back energy bill [See WIMS 7/26/10] -- The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act. Senator Reid and Senator John Kerry both indicated last week that they did not have any Republican votes to pass a more comprehensive energy and climate bill including the anticipated cap-and-trade program [See WIMS 7/23/10]. As previously announced, Senator Reid's bill would, ". . .ensure that BP pays to clean up its mess. Second, it would invest in Home Star, a bipartisan energy efficiency program that lowers consumers' energy costs and create jobs. Third, it would protect the environment by investing in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Fourth, it would reduce our dependence on oil by making investments in vehicles that run on electricity and natural gas. Finally, it would increase the amount that oil companies are required to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund."
    Now it appears that there will continue to be a major political battle between Republican's and Democrats over the provisions of the bill -- particularly those dealing with the BP oil spill. U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following statement today (July 28) regarding Senate consideration of what he called "a responsible approach to addressing the oil spill." Senator McConnell said, "It's now perfectly obvious that Democrats are doing their best to keep us from passing a serious energy bill before the August recess. Later today, we expect the Majority Leader to offer the Democrat alternative to the oil spill response bill that Republicans proposed last week. This is not a serious exercise.

    "All indications are that they don't intend to have a real debate about one of the most important issues we face. Anybody who's been around here for any period of time knows energy bills take at least a couple of weeks. So it doesn't appear that there's either time or willingness on the other side to debate this critical issue. We would have liked to have had a debate on ideas we've already offered. Our energy bill would give the President the ability to raise the liability caps on economic damages done by companies like BP -- without driving small independent oil producers out of business. It would lift the administration's job-killing moratorium on off-shore drilling as soon as new safety standards are met -- a moratorium that one senior Gulf State Democrat has said `Could cost more jobs than the oil spill itself.'

    "I mean, how can you have a serious energy debate without addressing a problem that a leading Gulf State Democrat says is costing more jobs than the spill itself? Our bill has a true bipartisan commission -- with subpoena power -- to investigate the oil spill, rather than the President's anti-drilling commission. Importantly, it also takes good ideas from Democrats, including Senator Bingaman's idea for much needed reform at MMS.  Surely we can all agree that this administration's oversight at MMS is in need of major reform. Our bill includes revenue sharing for coastal states that allow offshore drilling to help them prepare for and deal with disasters like the one we have right now in the Gulf.

    "So we've got our own ideas. We've got some of their ideas. Our bill doesn't kill jobs. It doesn't put a moratorium on production.  We're not interested in yet another debate about a Democrat bill in which the prerequisite is killing more jobs. Our bill would address this crisis at hand. Their bill would use the crisis to stifle business and kill jobs in a region that's in desperate need of jobs.  It was my hope that we could have a real debate about energy. Clearly, the Majority isn't interested in that debate." 

    In response to the Republicans, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senator Reid, released a statement saying, "Republicans want taxpayers to foot the bill for BP's disaster and allow BP to use endless legal battles to run out the clock on those whose livelihoods they destroyed -- just like Exxon did to victims of the Valdez spill. Republicans should come to their senses and remember that they represent the American people, not BP. Our responsibility is to make sure the Americans affected by this disaster are made whole -- not to protect BP's profits.
    "You would have to be incredibly out of touch to think we should bail out BP for the disaster they caused in the Gulf, yet that is exactly what Senate Republicans are proposing. Besides the fact that the Republican plan does nothing to create jobs, their proposal would essentially trust BP to pay back the millions of Americans whose livelihoods they've ruined. This defies common sense. These hard-working people just had the rug pulled out from under them, and Democrats believe they should not be forced to fight BP's army of corporate lawyers for years to come just to get the compensation they deserve."
    Today, Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) joined Larry Laseter of the Home Star Coalition and Marilyn Heiman of Pew Environment Group at a press conference to discuss the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act. Senator Reid said, "There are many ways to end our addiction to oil and this bill is one of them. This bill creates jobs that can never be outsourced by strengthening companies that make energy efficiency products. It also saves consumers money -- about $1 billion a year over the next 10 years -- by cutting energy costs and giving them incentives to make their homes more energy efficient. And it changes the law to make it crystal clear that polluters -- not the taxpayers -- are going to be held responsible for cleaning up the Gulf."
    In the meantime, a coalition including may major environmental groups, issued a statement saying, "As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the deadliest coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a clean energy and climate policy. There's no doubt that big oil, big coal, their army of lobbyists and their partners in Congress are cheering the obstruction that blocked Senate action on clean energy and climate legislation. Their cheers are cheers for China taking the lead in clean energy jobs, the Middle East getting more of our money, and America getting more
pollution and fewer jobs.

    "At every opportunity, a minority of Senators who are in the pocket of America's largest polluters in the coal and oil industries chose obstruction over working together to solve America's energy and national security challenges. As a result of their actions, the big polluters will continue to reap record profits at the expense of Americans. As we look forward, one thing is clear: the Senate's job is not done. They must use every opportunity available to address clean energy and climate reform by working to limit carbon pollution and invest in new clean energy sources that are made in America, including protecting the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to crack down on polluters."

    Some of the major groups endorsing the statement included: 1Sky, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, US Climate Action Network, and many, many more regional, state and local groups.

    The American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard issued a statement saying the Democrat's bill would "cost American jobs, slow economic growth and will place our energy security at risk." He said, "While full details of the Senate bill are not yet available, the liability provision sticks out as a jobs killer. Requiring an unattainable level of insurance coverage for domestic energy producers on the Outer Continental Shelf will force the vast majority of American companies out of U.S. waters, according to insurers. This would cut domestic production, kill American jobs, slow economic growth and cost billions in federal oil and natural gas revenues.

    "Even those that could self insure operations would see costs skyrocket, driving investments out of the United States, further hurting our economy, employment and energy security, according to a recent analysis by Wood Mackenzie. While we are glad that the bill recognizes the need to analyze the economic repercussions of the current deepwater moratorium, a better tack would have been to repeal it. Majority Leader Reid suggests his bill will create 150,000 new jobs, but our analysis indicates that failing to develop in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico will cost more than that -- 175,000 jobs, the majority of them in already hard-hit Gulf Coast communities. Clearly, that is not a win for Americans."

    Access Senator Reid's announcement of the Democratic bill and link to a 24-page summary (click here). Access the statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access Sen. Reid's response to Republicans (click here). Access a release from Senate Democrats including a list of some of the supporters of the bill (click here). Access the statement from the environmental coalition with a complete list of signers (click here). Access the API statement (click here).