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[greenyes] Citizen Action Alert - Energy Bill vote in Congress
GreenYes List Serve,

   Re:  Action Alert Regarding Vote on Energy Bill in Conference Committee

Nearly three years of struggles over national energy policy are moving one 
step closer to final action when the joint Senate-House conference committee 
takes up the energy bill for a vote, possibly today if House leaders have their 
way.  Your calls to Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate 
Finance Committee, who is writing the tax provisions in the energy bill and who 
plays a pivotal role on renewable energy are critical.

Status of the energy bill: Republican leaders of the Senate-House conference 
committee on the energy bill may hold a public session on Monday, October 20 
to vote on the proposed final version of the legislation.  If passed, the 
conference version is subject to only three possibilities for further action: (1) 
up or down vote; (2) a motion to recommit to the conference committee; (3) a 
Senate fillibuster.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is pressing Senate Conferees to yield, so 
that the House of Representatives could vote on final passage on October 21.

Action:  Telephone calls and e-mails on Monday will be particularly useful, 
since it would be the first time the entire bill has been exposed to the light 
of day.  Some key points to make on substance and process are provided below:

1. Process: The entire conference committee and Congress should have time to 
review and debate the energy bill, since it is the first comprehensive bill in 
a decade.

* We don't want another Enron type of energy and financial crisis due to a 
poorly crafted law that serves narrow special interests, such as removing 
restrictions on companies purchasing Chartered Utilities (a restriction put into law 
during the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt).

*  Is it good for the nation to allow companies with a lot of cash like GE, 
Microsoft or Cisco to buy cash-strapped companies with loans coming due in the 
next 2-4 years?
Have you heard about this before?  It could be another deregulation fiasco, 
but few people know anything about it.

* The two leaders of the conference committee weren't elected to speak for 
the entire nation, so pushing through a bill crafted largely in secret violates 
the responsibilities entrusted to all members of Congress by the constitution.

2.  Important provisions needed in the energy bill to protect national 
security, create jobs and protect the environment include:

*   A renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring utilities to generate 10 
percent of electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar 
power.  [Fact:  53 senators signed a letter urging conferees to put the RPS back 
in the bill, was the case in the Senate-passed version.]

*  An increasing number of businesses and homes are relying on solar energy 
and other forms of electricity to reduce dependence on the electrical grid.  
The energy bill needs to require: (1) net metering so that excess electricity 
generated from these sources can be put on the grid and customer costs reduced 
appropriately; and (2) tax credits for renewable energy sources set to expire 
need to be renewed now to spur investment.

[Facts:  The New York Times, Sunday, October 12, ran a story in the bunsiness 
section about companies installing solar, as costs have come done and because 
of state incentives.  See also the cover story in Mother Earth News, "The 
Solar Patriot", August/September 2003 that illustrates what millions of new homes 
could do in the coming decade and also featured in the Washington Post on 
Saturday, September 28 article about the solar homes tour.]

*  Support phasing out the gasoline additive MTBE, which has contaminated 
drinking water supplies.

3.  Oppose including the following provisions:

*  Oppose authorization for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife 
Refuge;

*  Outer continental shelf oil drilling survey;

*  Oppose relaxing pollution standards that apply to drilling for gas, which 
would increase contamination of groundwater. [Note: Farmers and 
environmentalists oppose this.]

*   Oppose restrictions on litigation arising from MTBE contamination, which 
doesn't need to be addressed in the energy bill.

WHO TO CALL/WHY TO CALL NOW:  (Capitol Switch telephone number is 
202-224-3121) Focus on the Senate first, since prospects are better for winning a 
majority of conferees or on the Senate floor to fillibuster if a bad bill comes out 
of the conference committee.  The reason why it's important now is that few 
people have seen the bill and so there is very little time to mobilize the 
grassroots.  Leaders like House Majority Leader Tom DeLay want to push through a 
bill quickly to avoid allowing the opposition to get organizing and start picking 
apart the bill.

1.  Top priority is calling Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of 
the Senate Finance Committee.  It doesn't matter what state you are from, he 
needs to hear the message.

Grassley expressed willingness to vote for the renewable portfolio standard 
(RPS), if it comes to a vote in the conference committee.  He is also writing 
the tax provisions of the bill, which are expected to include $16-20 billion 
for the oil, coal, gas and nuclear industry.  So keeping tax incentives for 
renewables and requiring net metering are simply steps to level the playing field 
a little.  

2.  Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) is chairman of the Senate Energy and 
Natural Resources Committee, and chairman of the conference committee.  He 
has a more delicate balancing act because of the potential for a senate 
fillibuster.

3.  Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) is the top Democrat on the 
conference committee.  He needs to know people care when the Democratic Senators meet 
on Tuesday and discuss tactics for handling the energy bill.

4.  Senator Tom Daschle (D - South Dakota), Minority Leader, who was invite 
to some discussions with Republican leaders late last week.  But Daschle, a 
member of the conference committee, had been excluded from earlier discussions.

5.  Your own senators.  Neither Warner or Allen are on the conference 
committee.

6.  House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R - Illinois) wants a bill to complete one 
of the top priorities of President Bush and who has proven to be a realist, 
allowing some Republicans to press for votes on issues not supported by the 
majority of members in his own party.

Calls to Senator Grassley are absolutely critical.

Lance King
Chairman
Community Solutions
5615 26th Street N.
Arlington, VA 22207
Tel: 703/536-7282
Fax: 703/538-5504

Community Solutions is a public policy and service organization, based in 
Arlington, Virginia. Dedicated to informed decision-making and bringing together 
diverse perspectives in problem solving, Community Solutions works on a range 
of local, national and international projects.


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