Democratic News

Most of you received the second discussion draft of the various provisions in the energy bill that GOP staff thus far have negotiated in their Cheney Task Force-like discussions. A statement accompanying that draft emphasizes that it is the work product of “multiple bipartisan meetings,” and that changes “reflect both Republican and Democratic input.” Democratic staff did attend the so-called revision meetings, so, technically, these meetings were bipartisan. And the second discussion draft contains lots of changes, big and small. We’re pleased that Republican staff fixed technical errors and drafting glitches that we pointed out. But their description of what Democrats asked for in these meetings contains inaccuracies. For example, Bingaman and Dingell staff did not ask for the deletion of language regarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, only that it be written as part of -- and reconciled with -- existing law in the Energy Policy & Conservation Act governing the SPR, instead of as a free-standing and conflicting provision. Because most of you are on deadline, I won’t attempt to list the comments and proposed compromises that we made in these meetings that were not accepted … nor will I itemize the new items that have appeared that no one here remembers discussing or asking for in these meetings … nor will I cite the elements of forward-looking energy legislation that are completely missing from the GOP draft (RPS, climate policy, etc.). Lately my messages have pinged Republicans on process, expressing dissatisfaction that Democrats have been locked out of the discussions where compromises were first drafted, and only invited to comment afterwards. This message also focuses on substance. Though we still don’t know what’s going on re: ethanol, electricity and taxes, we now have finished reviewing the pieces of the conference report that were distributed late Monday. Going through this draft page-by-page, line-by-line has been tedious. Though far from all-inclusive, here is a sampling of major and persistent problems in the Republican Energy Conference Report: 1. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge – Opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing and development. 2. Undermining the Commitment to Hydrogen – Abandons the bipartisan Senate hydrogen title, reducing funding for hydrogen research, development and demonstration by $1 billion per year and deleting broadly-supported goals for introduction of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. 3. Changing the Basic Relationship Between Indian Tribes and the Government – Undermines the federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes with respect to energy development on Indian lands. 4. Discriminating Against Tribes, States and the Public – Discriminates against tribes, States and the public in new appeals procedures for hydroelectric relicensing proceedings by letting only industry to initiate appeals. New “trial-type” procedures lets industry hold proceedings hostage for years. 5. Undermining Clean Coal – Reduces the percentage of authorized funds required to be spent on the cleanest coal gasification technologies by 20 percent, in favor of more polluting coal-based technologies. Adds pork-barrel loan guarantees for the first time in the 17-year history of program. 6. Waiving the National Environmental Policy Act – Waives NEPA environmental review process for all types of energy development projects on Indian lands, and NEPA compliance for drilling on public lands is subject to unrealistic time limits. 7. Burning Old-Growth Forest for Energy – Authorizes $50 million for companies to remove trees, including large fire-resistant trees important for forest health, and burn them for energy. 8. Imperiling Coastal Resources – Grants the Secretary of the Interior new authority for oil and gas support facilities, even in areas on the Outer Continental Shelf under leasing moratoria; requires an inventory of oil and gas resources beneath the waters of the OCS, regardless of whether a moratorium is in place; and undermines protection of Padre Island National Seashore from impacts of oil and gas development. 9. Subsidies, Subsidies, Subsidies – Provides millions of dollars in direct incentive payments to mature energy industries (e.g., hydroelectric plants, new turbines at existing plants) to undertake equipment upgrades they would normally do otherwise. Authorizes a $1.1 billion nuclear reactor in Idaho, with a potential exemption from normal Federal project management rules, to demonstrate hydrogen production technologies that are not projected to be economic. 10. Abandons Broadly Supported Elements of a Balanced Energy Policy in the Senate Bill – Key issues commanding majority support in the Senate, such as a Renewable Portfolio Standard for electricity, requirements for measures to reduce dependence on foreign oil, climate change policy and technology, and energy infrastructure protection, have been unilaterally ruled out of the conference. # # #