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E-M:/ News Release: Sen. Levin and Stabenow Get Energy Grades

Enviro-Mich message from "Daniel Farough" <daniel.farough@sierraclub.org>

News Release


For Immediate Release:			Contact:
Thursday, March 28, 2002 		Megan Owens, PIRGIM (734) 662-6597
						Dan Farough, Sierra Club (517) 484-2372



Senators Stabenow and Levin have failed to make the grade with their votes
so far on a national energy bill, according to an energy report card
released today by Sierra Club, PIRGIM and the Michigan Environmental
Council.  Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin earned grades of D and D- in
the evaluation.

“With key tests yet to come on drilling in the pristine Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge, protecting families and other energy policies, the Senate
has so far failed to make the grade for a smarter, cleaner, and more secure
energy future,” said Dan Farough, Political Director of the Michigan Sierra
Club.  “Senator Stabenow earns particularly low marks for her vote on fuel
efficiency, while scoring high for her vote on protecting drinking water
from oil and gas exploration pollution.  Senator Levin scored poorly,
getting only 1 out of 5 critical energy votes correct.”

“The Senate Energy bill began as a promising step toward a smarter, cleaner
energy future, and a far cry from the dirty, dangerous House energy bill and
Bush/Cheney energy plan, which were written by the polluters, for the
polluters.  Unfortunately, in vote after vote, the Senate bill has been
plundered by polluters,” said Isaac Elnecave of the Michigan Environmental
Council.  “The Senate has left for Spring Break with a bill that fails to
reduce our dependence on imported oil, fails to significantly increase our
nation's energy security, fails to protect energy consumers, and fails to
safeguard our environment,” Elnecave added.

At a minimum, forward-thinking energy legislation should reduce consumption
of oil by one million barrels a day, guarantee that at least 10% of
electricity supplies come from new clean renewable energy resources, cut
subsidies to polluting energy sources, ensure a reliable and
consumer-friendly electric system, reduce pollution to our air, land and
water, and safeguard the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other wild
places, said the groups.  The groups releasing the report card, including
PIRGIM, Sierra Club, and Michigan Environmental Council, called on Senators
Levin and Stabenow to oppose further attempts to pollute this bill with
special interest handouts and drill in our last pristine wilderness areas,
in particular the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The groups also called on
the Senators to ensure that any energy bill which emerges from the Senate
solves, rather than exacerbates, our nation's overall energy problems.

With a vote on drilling the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and
other energy issues expected when the Senate returns from the Spring Recess,
the coalition highlighted the following amendments in evaluating the Senate’
s progress on energy:

·	Polluting Sources of Energy: Despite the fact that no sound solution
exists for dealing with deadly radioactive waste from nuclear power plants,
the Senate voted 78 to 21 on an amendment by Senator Voinovich (R-OH) to
extend the life of dirty and dangerous nuclear power by using taxpayer
dollars to extend liability insurance to the industry in case of a
catastrophic nuclear accident.  It also unanimously passed an amendment by
Senator Craig (R-ID) to use taxpayer dollars to construct new nuclear plants
by 2010.

·	Automobile Miles Per Gallon Standards (CAFE): By a vote of 62-38, the
Senate passed an amendment offered by Senators Levin (D-MI) and Bond (R-MO)
to strip the only provision to reduce our dependence on foreign oil—a
significant increase in fuel economy standards.  The amendment also
compromises public safety by striking vehicle safety standards from the
energy bill.  Another amendment by Senator Miller (D-GA) actually weakens
current law by creating a new loophole that exempts pickup trucks from any
future increases in fuel economy standards.

·	Renewable Energy Standards:  By a vote of 70-29, the Senate rejected an
amendment by Senator Jeffords (I-VT) to increase the percentage of
electricity generated from renewable sources to 20% by 2020, passing up a
golden opportunity to create jobs and protect the environment. Senators
later rejected efforts by Senator Kyl (R-AZ) and Murkowski (R-AK) to strip
or gut the renewable portfolio standard in the underlying bill, but accepted
an amendment by Senator Bingaman (D-NM) that weakens the renewable standard
and could encourage more toxic mercury-emitting garbage incinerators and
logging in our national forests.

·	Weaken Drinking Water Protections: Senators Bingaman (D-NM) and Inhofe
(R-OK) offered an amendment that weakens Safe Drinking Water Act
requirements in order to expand oil and gas exploration and development.
One of the techniques used in drilling wells for oil and gas exploration and
extraction is injection of water, sand, and toxic chemicals, which can
pollute underground sources of drinking water.  In effect, the
Bingaman-Inhofe amendment blocks regulation of coalbed methane wells for the
duration of new studies and potentially suspends existing drinking water
regulation of all other oil and gas wells at the end of the studies.

The Senate leadership has announced plans to complete action on the energy
bill when it returns from its two-week recess on April 9.  At that time, it
will likely take up the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. U.S. Geological Survey data that demonstrates that the Refuge would
produce, at current consumption, only six months worth of oil that would not
reach the Lower 48 for ten years.  “The Senate’s next test after the recess
will be a vote on drilling the Arctic Wildlife Refuge,” said Megan Owens of
PIRGIM.  “To study for this test, they should listen to the overwhelming
majority of Americans, who oppose drilling and support protecting this
national treasure.”

“The Senate should pass an energy bill that protects America’s special
places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reduces our dependence on
foreign oil by cutting oil consumption, mitigates our over-reliance on
fossil fuels and nuclear power for electricity by significantly increasing
generation from clean renewable sources, and decreases pollution to our air,
land and water,” said Owens.  “If the Senate does anything short of that, it
fails to make the grade, and fails the American public.”


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