Stupak: Energy bill too loaded with tax breaks for big companies
WASHINGTON, D. C. -- H.R. 6, the energy policy bill passed in final form by the House of Representatives
Tuesday, Nov. 18, is a special interest bill that gives $23.6 billion dollars in tax breaks to energy producers, will only add to this country's already massive debt load and will do little to reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil, according to Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Menominee. Stupak voted no on the final bill, which was approved by the House on a largely party-line vote of 240 to 180.
"While there were some positive things in H.R. 6, the bill was so unbalanced with paybacks to special interests, I simply could not agree to add that debt burden to the heavy load already carried by American taxpayers," Stupak said. "The initial House version of the bill had $17 billion in tax breaks with some reductions in other spending, and the Senate version had $15 billion, again with offset provisions. The President himself only asked for between $8 and 9 billion in tax cuts when we started this process," he continued.
By the time the bill came out of the conference, the tax breaks had soared to $23.6 billion, with $11.9 billion for oil and gas companies. "There are no offsets for these enormous subsidies," Stupak noted, "at the same time that Republicans are insisting on offsets to pay for veterans' medical care and other priorities outside of this bill."
The final terms of the bill were negotiated almost completely in secret, by a very few Republican members of the conference committee. Even most members of the conference committee were barred from the discussions,
while industry representatives had input, leading to charges that the bill was finalized in the same type of closed-door meetings that created Vice President Cheney's energy policy roadmap in 2001.
"I am glad that there was a loud enough outcry to force Republican leaders to back off from their determination to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," Stupak said. "But I am disappointed with the number of provisions in this bill that weaken clean air and clean water protections and give energy producers a pass on complying with environmental laws. I have often said we cannot drill our way out of our energy dependency. We must look to alternative energy sources for our everyday needs."
"One of the things that most people will be asking is whether this bill will prevent future blackouts like the one we had in August of this year," suggested Stupak. "While there is a start at trying to improve the reliability of the electricity grid in this bill, there is no accountability and no effective enforcement of electrical standards to prevent future blackouts. H.R. 6 postpones until 2007 the FERC's ability to require participation in regional transmission organizations. In the Midwest, this leaves control of the electricity delivery grid seriously fragmented, which was a big cause of the blackout," the Congressman continued. "Real improvement in reliability has been postponed until after the next two Congressional elections."
Stupak said that H.R. 6 also repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act without providing for adequate protection for electricity and natural gas consumers from predatory pricing and market manipulation, as occurred in the Enron debacle and elsewhere.
"H.R. 6 does give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) some authority to look at predatory pricing and practices, but FERC has shown in the past that it does not have the ability to monitor or prevent market abuses of consumers by the Enrons of the world," he continued.
The bill also puts the cost of paying for groundwater contaminated by MTBE additives to gasoline on the taxpayer by limiting product defect liability for MTBE and paying MTBE producers $2 billion dollars to shift to production of different gasoline additives.
Stupak was successful in keeping a provision in the final bill that requires the Secretary of Energy to study the benefits of a technology called "total integrated thermal systems" for use in Department of Defense and other federal vehicle fleets. The technology saves fuel, and reduces harmful emissions. It is being developed by Engineered Machine Products, Inc. of Escanaba.
The final version of H.R. 6 must still be approved by a Senate vote before it can be sent to the President for signature into law.
Citizens may contact Stupak's Washington office at (202) 225-4735 or email him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. His Congressional Aide Amy Wisti may be reached in Houghton from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at (906) 482-1371.
For Rep. Stupak's views on current issues, visit his
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