"Leaner" Energy Bill Still Threatens Coastal States

February 17, 2004

(17 February 2004 ? Washington, D.C.)  Environmental Defense today called for continued rejection of a revised Senate energy bill released on February 13th, citing, among other things, the proposed legislation’s damaging implications for weakening states’ environmental authority and undermining longstanding bipartisan protections for America’s oceans.

The energy bill failed to pass the Senate in November due to controversial proposals on a water pollution liability waiver for MTBE gasoline additive manufacturers, large incentives to traditional polluting energy sources, limited financing for renewables, failure to do anything on climate change, and because of an alarming price tag estimated at $31 billion dollars.

Many of these concerns remain.  More particularly, the revised energy bill still proposes a controversial plan to assign unilateral permitting and regulatory authority to the Secretary of Interior for all offshore energy-related industrial facilities within the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Further, the bill would arbitrarily interfere with decades of successful federal consultation with coastal states under the Coastal Zone Management Act and includes a giveaway of free undersea oil in fragile Alaskan areas to petroleum companies in an attempt to promote new offshore drilling in rough and spill-prone waters.

“The Senate had a reasonable chance to repair the previously fatal problems with this bill between legislative sessions, but unfortunately, the current flawed version continues to unduly threaten America’s coastline,” said Richard Charter, marine conservation advocate with Environmental Defense.  “The revised bill still bulges with expensive taxpayer-funded offshore drilling incentives and budget busting tax breaks for the oil industry, while seriously jeopardizing our economically important living marine resources.”

The Senate is expected to bring the bill up for debate soon after February 23, when Senators return from a weeklong break.