What: All Issues : Environment : Renewable Energy : H.R. 6. Energy Policy/Vote on Final Passage of an Energy Conference Report to Overhaul the Nation's Energy Policies. (2003 house Roll Call 630)
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H.R. 6. Energy Policy/Vote on Final Passage of an Energy Conference Report to Overhaul the Nation's Energy Policies.
house Roll Call 630     Nov 18, 2003
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

Overhauling the nation's energy policies has been a key domestic priority for the Bush Administration. In early 2001, Vice President Cheney, in concert with a number of highly placed energy industry representatives, drafted a comprehensive energy policy to increase the domestic production of oil by, among other things, creating new tax breaks for oil producers, expanding drilling operations in the U.S. including a highly-contentious proposal to drill for oil in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and easing environmental regulations on the oil and gas industry. The original energy plan, however, was defeated in Congress in 2001 and 2002 in large part because the proposed oil drilling in ANWR galvanized opposition to the energy bill among environmentally-minded lawmakers. In 2003, the administration dropped the ANWR provisions from their energy plan and added ethanol subsidies to attract support from lawmakers representing corn-producing states in this country (ethanol, a gasoline additive, is generally made from corn). The modified energy plan was then adopted by the House and Senate, albeit in different forms, and a conference committee was convened to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation in the form of a conference report (a conference report is the product of conference committee negotiations and is the final version of a piece of legislation when each house of Congress has passed a different initial version of a bill). The subject of this vote was final passage of the energy conference report which would, among other things, authorize $25.7 billion in energy-related tax breaks over the next ten years, authorize $18 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska, shield the makers of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) from liability for environmental damage caused by the gasoline additive, and impose reliability standards for electricity transmission networks. Progressives voted against final passage of the energy conference report for two main reasons. First, Progressives opposed the provisions in the bill which would shield MTBE producers from paying any of the costs associated with cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by MTBE. Progressives pointed out that MTBE has been found to contaminate groundwater, has been linked to cancer, and that a liability waiver to MTBE producers would undermine the clean water standards that are codified in the Clean Water Act. Second, Progressives objected to what they characterized as overly-generous subsidies to the oil and natural gas industry which was contained in the legislation. The estimated $14.1 billion in public subsides for oil and gas producers, Progressives argued, would be better spent on developing renewable and pollution-free energy sources such as solar and wind power. Conservatives voted in favor of the energy conference report. In their view, encouraging the domestic production of oil and natural gas was important to reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Additionally, they argued, the bill would take important steps toward modernizing the nation's energy infrastructure. On a vote of 246-180, the energy conference report was adopted by the House. The energy conference report, however, did not pass the Senate by the end of the 2003 congressional session and the measure did not become law.

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