We dodged a bullet on this one in March. Members of the Senate voted 52 to 48 in favor of a bill to remove language from the Senate budget resolution that would have allowed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on Alaska's North Slope. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) introduced the bill. While most votes were along party lines, four Democrats voted for drilling and eight moderate Republicans and the Independent member voted against drilling.
Please be sure to thank or spank your Senators—see Access for a link to the Senate vote record for this issue. While you are communicating with your Senators, be sure to ask them and your representative in the House to support the Morris K. Udall Arctic Wilderness
All the critters in ANWR are safe from oil exploits—for
All the critters in ANWR are safe from oil exploits—for
Protection Act, which would finally give wilderness status to ANWR.
We are not done with the ANWR issue yet. This issue will continue to be used as a diversionary tactic so that mainstream environmental forces won't muster to defend other targets of the Bush administration. In fact, exploring in ANWR has cropped up yet again in new House energy legislation. Until we can finally take the ANWR hill by making it a wilderness area, the problem will keep cropping up.
Buried way back on page 8 of section C in of your local paper, where only a bunker buster could get to it, was an announcement that the first vote on the Bush energy plan for 2003 was to take place on April 1st—no joke. The House Energy and Commerce Committee was the first to consider the Energy and Policy Act of 2003. It is expected to sail through this committee, and reach the House floor soon thereafter. Our best chance of defeating this bill will come in the Senate again this year, where the members don't seem quite as willing to give our world away to corporate exploitation.
This new bill contains a lot of bad provisions in it, just like the 2001-2002 House bill. The current bill includes funding to resurrect programs for reprocessing nuclear waste into weapons-grade plutonium. Reprocessing had been abandoned in the past because it is so difficult to do without releasing radioactive contamination into the environment, and it goes against previous now administrations' goals of nuclear nonproliferation. Really, this is a bailout for the nuclear industry, which has not been able to build more nuclear power plants in the U.S. for many years. It's also a means to keep the nuclear weapons industry funded, even though we do not need more plutonium for nuke weapons.
The energy bill would form a new partnership between the U.S. government and the nuclear industry by using taxpayer money in not just R&D, but in the building of new nuclear power plants for utilities and other potential plant owners. This Bush administration Nuclear Power 2010 program has the goal of at least some nuke power plants by 2010, and a total of 50 (!) new reactors by the year 2050. The bill also would reauthorize the Price-Anderson Act, which removes nearly all liabilities from plant owners in the case of a major nuclear accident.
As you might imagine, the energy bill's proposed government spending for renewables, efficiency, and conservation are a drop in the bucket compared to the corporate-friendly technologies of nuclear and fossil fuels. Though things are likely to change by the time it gets through committee and gets a final vote on the house floor, the committee version of the Energy Policy Act of 2003 can be downloaded from the Promised Files section of the Downloads area of Home Power's Web site.
FERC Admission—Too Little, Too Late
Yet another significant event happened recently that received little notice because of the Iraq conflict. Remember that pesky energy "crisis" that California had in 2001 and 2002? That was the one where energy companies withheld electricity and otherwise manipulated the market to gouge excessive profits from ratepayers and the state. State regulators and politicians have been trying ever since to get reimbursements from the energy companies that created these problems. It was up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to determine if and how much should be refunded. Well, more than two years later, FERC finally admitted that Californians were gouged by several energy corporations, including Enron and five other firms.
California was hoping to get around US$9 billion refunded to it as a result of the overcharges. FERC ordered the companies to refund about US$3.3 billion. Unfortunately, ratepayers will not see any of that money in decreased rates, because in a related setback, FERC ruled that California owes energy companies US$3 billion for unpaid energy contracts.
FERC would not allow California to renegotiate around US$20 billion in long-term energy contracts that the state entered into while it tried to keep energy flowing and prices down, even though the state claimed that those contracts were over-inflated by the very same market manipulation that caused the overcharges. FERC maintains that if there had been ample supply, the energy companies would not have been able to take advantage of the flaws inherent in California's restructured system.
FERC is once again bowing to the corporations that have been allowed to control it. The agency feels the pressure to call for more investment in non-RE generation, so there is no way they could do anything but claim that the California problem was one of not enough supply.
And things could get worse at FERC. The Senate is expected to approve two new Bush appointments to the commission, Joseph Kelliher and Suedeen Kelly. Both are proponents of federal deregulation plans that would favor energy corporations, and remove much control from the states. Hold onto your wallets, ratepayers. Time to invest in RE.
Peace and justice.
March ANWR Senate vote record, see www.redwoodalliance.org/anwr.htm
Was this article helpful?