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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Sen. Patty Murray released the following statement on the Energy Bill conference report, which failed to get cloture by a vote of 57-40. Sixty votes were needed to get cloture. Murray was joined by seven of her Republican colleagues in voting against cloture.



"I want to take time to comment on the energy bill before us today.



It is disappointing that such a massive bill could do so little to promote our energy independence, national security, economy, or environment. It does nothing to protect our rate-payers from the type of energy crisis we faced in the Pacific Northwest and California. Those who claim otherwise are simply masking the real mission of this bill which is a taxpayer giveaway to the big energy companies.



A twelve hundred page bill has much to comment on, but I will not take time to detail every concern I have. I want to discuss the electricity title, the lack of a true energy policy, and threats to our environment.



Electricity title



First let me discuss the electricity title of the bill. For those of us from the Pacific Northwest this title was of the utmost concern.



For over two years the Pacific Northwest has been struggling against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) effort to deregulate the transmission system through its promotion of regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and standard market design (SMD) rules.



Two simple points: First, FERC had proposed a solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist in the Pacific Northwest. Second, the one-size fits all approach being promoted by FERC would neither work nor be cost-effective in our unique hydro power based system.



With those concerns in mind I have been working with many of my colleagues in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast, who have similar regional concerns, to keep FERC from moving forward with these plans. I am pleased that the bi-partisan group has been successful in delaying until 2007 FERC’s ability to move forward with SMD.



While the bill delays SMD implementation, it does not permanently stop FERC from ultimately pursuing this power grab, and does nothing to stop RTO development.



In fact, the bill is an outright endorsement of the RTO plan, going so far as to provide incentives to utilities for joining such transmission organizations.



FERC has not demonstrated that such a system in the Pacific Northwest will be an economic benefit to the region and, to date, the majority of Washington state utilities remain opposed to the RTOs. Even with the SMD delay provision, this bill is a threat to the electricity system of the Northwest and I cannot add my voice to this bill’s support of RTOs.



Market manipulation



Also of great concern in the electricity title is the bill's failure to deal with market manipulation. The Pacific Northwest and California are still feeling the direct effects of the 2000-2001 energy crisis that we now know was caused, in large measure, by energy companies manipulating prices.



Given the lessons we've learned over the past three years, one would have hoped that this energy bill would aggressively attack these known methods of market manipulation. But that is not the case. This bill only bans one type of manipulation and ignores all the other methodologies we know were used.



By remaining virtually silent on market manipulation, this bill is giving a nod to energy companies to once again employ "Fat Boy," "Get Shorty" and other infamous price gouging schemes.



This bill is an open invitation for companies to once again seek to fatten share-holders wallets at the expense of rate-payers. This is more true now that the bill repeals the Public Utility Company Holding Act without implementing any countervailing laws to protect against abuse in the industry.



In total, this bill promotes schemes that are counter to Washington's rate-payers and fails to protect them against the manipulative practices that have already raised their rates.



Lack of a comprehensive energy policy

The bill also lacks a comprehensive energy policy.



During the past three years of debate on energy I have acknowledged we should recognize the current importance of oil, gas, and coal in our energy production today. But to ensure America’s energy security for the future, it must strongly promote energy efficiency, conservation, clean and renewable energy sources, and should diversify our energy sources.



But rather than aggressively promoting renewable energy and conservation, this bill maintains the status quo. This bill directs billions of taxpayer dollars to traditional energy producers who already have healthy market shares and hardly need government support.



Of the roughly $23 billion in tax credits in this bill, only $4.9 billion – or 20 percent – would go towards renewable energy or conservation.



I support the production tax credits for wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass renewable energy in this bill, but unfortunately public power is left out of the equation.



Public power

Many Washington residents are served by publicly-owned utilities and cooperatives and they should receive the same incentives to invest in renewable energy as this bill gives to the for-profit utilities.



Earlier drafts of the tax title included a tradable tax credit for public power investment in renewables. I know that Senate Finance committee members fought for this provision, but unfortunately the President and House objected to the provision.



With so much of Washington and the Pacific Northwest served by public power utilities it will be much harder to get these type of investments made.



Energy efficiency

We hear constantly that we need to decrease our reliance on oil from the Middle East and yet this bill does nothing substantive to increase automobile efficiency standards. The United States is the most technologically-advanced country in the world. There is no reason we cannot build and produce more fuel-efficient cars.



Without addressing fuel efficiency standards, it's hard to praise this bill for promoting energy efficiency or national security.



In the end, this bill does nothing more than preserve the status quo of energy production in the United States. We are not more secure, we are not more independent, and we have not truly diversified our production sources. All we have done is promote the traditional energy sources of oil, coal, and gas at the expense of our national security and environment.



Environmental impacts

This bill does serious harm to our environment and our health by effectively turning back the clock on decades-old environmental protections.



First, the bill includes a provision that would amend the Clean Air Act to allow more delays for adhering to the EPA’s smog regulations. This provision is not just illogical, it is dangerous.



Second, the bill's provisions for our coastal regions present a threat to an area my state wants protected.



For Washingtonians, the coastal areas are some of the most pristine and cherished natural areas in the state. Under this bill, these areas, along with coastal areas in many other states, would be placed in serious jeopardy.



The bill would grant new authority to the Department of the Interior to authorize energy development projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, including the transport and storage of oil and gas. At the same time, it would undermine the rights of states to manage their coasts. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), states were given the right to have a say in federal projects that impacted their coastal regions. This bill would severely compromise these rights.



Third, the bill has alarming environmental implications for drilling and construction projects. It would allow an expedited application process for drilling on federal lands by requiring the Department of the Interior to automatically approve applications once they have met certain standards, regardless of any outstanding environmental concerns.



It also exempts companies from adhering to the Clean Water Act's runoff regulations for construction and drilling sites. Without adherence to these guidelines, the risk of groundwater contamination increases dramatically.



Fourth, I'm concerned about a measure to provide legal immunity to chemical companies that produce the gasoline additive MTBE. The toxic substance is known to have caused groundwater contamination and this bill shifts costs for cleanup to tax-payers.



Lastly, this bill contains huge subsidies for the oil and coal industries. Nearly half of this bill's incentives are given to the oil and coal industries, two of the most environmentally-destructive fossil fuels that have contributed to global warming. This is not just irresponsible; it is wrong.



We must actively work to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but subsidizing the industries and rolling back environmental protections is not a logical methodology.



In contrast, the bill provides less than one-quarter of its incentives to industries that produce renewable energy. Mr. President, the facts are clear. Renewables are simply not the top priority of this piece of legislation.



These are some of the many reasons I cannot support this piece of energy legislation. Not only does it put consumers at risk by repealing necessary protections, but it seriously puts at risk our own health and the health of our environment with the special-interest giveaways to the oil, gas, and coal industries.



Job creation

Finally, let me address the claims about job creation in this bill. For Washington state, a more aggressive promotion of renewable energy could have been a boost to local companies involved in this area of generation, but this bill did not provide that direction.



Proponents have argued that the bill encourages the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska, which would create jobs in Washington state. Unfortunately, the bill does not provide the guarantees needed for what could have been an important project. To construct the pipeline, its builders say they would need some protection against gas prices falling below a certain level. But, this bill provides no mechanism for risk mitigation, so according to its own builders, the pipeline will not be built.



Conclusion

The negative aspects of this bill are overwhelming. It fails to adequately address the real problems that we all face. It threatens the environmental progress we have made in the past and the progress we hope to make in the future. Without measures that substantively promote responsible energy use, increased conservation, energy independence, consumer protection, and environmental safeguards, this bill is simply unacceptable.



I cannot support legislation that puts us all in danger, and that's exactly what this bill does. The people of Washington state deserve better, and the people of America deserve better."