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FYI Number 104: August 14, 2001

House Passes Omnibus Energy Package

"While I am very pleased that the Science Committee portion of the energy package made it through the House I was unable in good conscience to vote for the entire package." - House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert

Before leaving for August recess, the House on August 1 voted 240-
189 to pass an omnibus energy bill incorporating many aspects of
President Bush's National Energy Policy. The bill, H.R. 4, is a
consolidation of several pieces of legislation produced by
different committees, and contains provisions addressing domestic
energy production, energy R&D, tax incentives, and conservation.
It would also set authorization levels for many DOE programs,
including the Office of Science.

While pleased that portions of the legislation under his
committee's jurisdiction (originally passed by the Science
Committee as H.R. 2460) were retained in the final bill, Science
Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) opposed other
provisions of the omnibus bill, including one to allow oil
exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
"The bill contained many good proposals such as encouraging the
use of alternative fuel vehicles and increasing investment in
renewable energy technologies," Boehlert stated in a press release
following passage of H.R. 4. "Unfortunately, this bill also
contained many proposals, such as drilling in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge, that are short-sighed, environmentally damaging
and questionable, at best, in terms of actual benefit that can be
derived from them."

"As of now, H.R. 4 is skewed far too heavily toward production-
much more so than was the President's energy plan," Boehlert
announced during the floor debate. "The bill includes new
subsidies and regulatory relief for the oil, gas and coal
industries without requiring any commensurate improvement in
environmental performance. No one doubts that we need to increase
our energy supply, but these subsidies go far beyond what is
necessary.... Still, I could support these provisions of H.R. 4
if they were part of an overall package that was balanced - that
ensured that we were doing all we could to conserve energy and
protect the environment. That's the approach we took in the
Science Committee when we unanimously passed...a section of the
bill that gives great emphasis to conservation and renewable
energy, while continuing support for research on oil, gas, coal
and nuclear energy. For the rest of the bill to reflect that kind
of balance, we must raise CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy]
standards and prevent drilling in ANWR."

He urged support for amendments - which ultimately failed - to
significantly increase fuel economy standards, and to preserve
the ban on gas and oil exploration in ANWR. To appease the
concerns many Members had about opening ANWR to drilling,
amendments were passed on the floor to limit the oil production
sites there to no more than 2,000 acres, and to devote 50 percent
of the royalties to maintenance of federal lands and research
into renewable energy. "This is a very clever, well-crafted
attempt to give people cover to say they oppose drilling when
they do not," Boehlert commented, according to Congressional
Quarterly.

Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural
Resources Committee, supports increased CAFE standards and
opposes oil exploration in ANWR, as do many other Senate
Democrats. His committee began working on its version of the
energy package before the recess, and will return to it during
the week of September 10. The Senate bill is expected to
authorize significantly more money than does the House for energy
efficiency, renewable energy, and conservation. Bingaman also
plans to address global climate change policy and energy
deregulation, two issues bypassed by the House.

"I am hopeful and optimistic," Boehlert said during the House
debate, "that the Senate will soon begin working on an energy
package and that...we will be able to come to a consensus on a
long-term plan that provides for all of America's energy needs
without doing more harm than good to the environment." Details
of the House bill relating to DOE's Office of Science will be
reported in FYI #105.

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3094

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