Lights out #6 – Two Lobbyists and a Wife

The Mesaba power plant, which I wrote about on October 2, is finally attracting a closer look, and none too soon, given the federal loan guarantees under consideration:

Politics behind Iron Range power plant plan questioned

Question of power on Iron Range

Overland, the Red Wing utility regulatory attorney, said, “This power is not needed, so they mandated it. They couldn’t demonstrate need if they had to. There is no market for it, so they have to require that Xcel buy the power. This is corporate welfare at its worst.”

Questions surround proposed Iron Range power plant
by Steve Alexander and Susan E. Peterson, Star Tribune
October 14, 2003
(also ran in the Rochester Post Bulletin)

Critics say power plant got free legislative ride
Associated Press, Star Tribune
Published October 13, 2003
(also ran in the Rochester Post Bulletin)

Iron Range: Power plant’s subsidies get new scrutiny
Hank Shaw and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Pioneer Press
Published October 12, 2003

Politics behind Iron Range power plant plan questioned
Duluth News Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Published October 12, 2003

Coal gasification will revitalize Range
Point of View by Tom Bakk and Tony Sertich
Duluth News Tribune
Published October 11, 2003

Coal gasification plant creates sticky mess
Letters to the Editor
Duluth News Tribune
Published October 10, 2003

….and on the federal energy bill front:

Congress about to sacrifice our children
Rochester Post Bulletin
October 14, 2003

Congress later this month is expected to vote on an energy bill that could have an impact on our environment for many decades to come.

Unfortunately, it appears that impact will be mostly negative.

The House and Senate earlier this year passed differing versions of
the energy bill, and conferees are attempting to hammer out a compromise. Details on the work-in-progress legislation are unclear because the conference committee has been meeting in secret. But some information on what’s likely to be included in the final bill has been made public.

It appears the new energy bill is likely to be a disaster for the environment. It would further increase our dependency on pollution-belching coal, do little or nothing to reduce consumption of petroleum, expand nuclear power, and harm pristine natural resources.

“The bill is more an infrastructure and regulatory relief bill as opposed to a mandated conservation or incentivized production bill,” Texas congressman and lead negotiator Joe Barton told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week.

And therein lies the problem.

The Bush administration and Republican leaders have made it their priority in this energy bill to establish regulatory concessions for big utilities. And they appear to be sacrificing our children’s future to do it.

Consider this. If the Bush administration has its way, the bill coming out in the conference committee would include incentives to increase nuclear power in this country, even though Congress still has not come up with a viable plan for how to deal with nuclear waste that remains toxic for millions of years.

In addition, the administration appears to have successfully jettisoned from the bill a provision that would have mandated that utilities, by a certain date, generate at least 10 percent of their power from
renewable resources such as wind.

Also missing from the bill are any reductions in fuel efficiency standards for U.S. automobiles. At the rate we’re going, people will soon be driving small houses down the road that get a mile to the gallon.

Finally, there are also rumors that the compromise bill could again include provisions for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and along the outer continental shelf.

And, to make matters worse, there is nothing in either the Senate or House versions of the energy bill that would do anything to increase power reliability, which could increase the chances that we will have more blackouts like the one that hit the Northeast this summer.

No matter what shape this bill takes, it appears certain that it will increase our reliance on polluting fossil fuels and cause us to further foul our nation — and the planet — will toxic pollutants.

We recognize that coal power is and will continue to be the nation’s primary electric power source for some years to come. And we also recognize that depletable fossil fuels, such as natural gas and, possibly, nuclear power, must also be included in any energy equation for the next two or three decades.

However, reduced fossil fuel consumption, stricter fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, an increased emphasis on renewable energy sources, and more stringent standards for outdated coal-burning power plants like the one in Rochester must also be included in that equation. We simply cannot accept the status quo, or worse, where our national energy policy is concerned.

Here is our advice for Senate and House conferees. Scrap the bill. There’s no need to rush. Start over and do the right thing. We need a balanced, sensible energy bill that keeps power affordable while at the same time preserving the environment, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and ensuring that future generations will breathe clean air.

Copyright 2003 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC All Rights Reserved

(More to come on this topic)

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