The following is a statement from Marty Hayden, Earthjustice’s Vice President of Policy and Legislation:
“The energy bill passed by Congress this week is a failure. Advocates for public health, the environment, taxpayers, and our national security all urged Congress to take America forward by promoting clean energy technology. Instead, we’ve been given a bill that will stuff billions of dollars into the energy industry’s already brimming pockets and Americans are once again left holding the bag and paying the price.
“Instead of making America a world leader in clean energy technology while protecting our health, our environment, and our economy, Congress has acted to continue the nation’s dependence on — and subsidy of — outdated, polluting industries. Of the actual $20 billion in energy tax breaks and credits contained in the bill, more than six out of every ten dollars will go to fossil fuels and nuclear power.
“However, the energy bill’s handouts to polluters are not limited to big bucks. This bill gives the energy industry exemptions from fundamental environmental protections, undermining safeguards for the public’s health and threatening our public lands.
“Most significantly, language in the bill endangers the public’s drinking water by amending the Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the injection of chemicals and toxins resulting from oil and gas activities into our nation’s groundwater. In a similar vein, this energy bill grants oil and gas industries an exemption from the Clean Water Act by removing controls on polluted runoff from oil and gas construction activities.
“The bill even contains what could become backdoor immunity for manufacturers of the cancer-causing gasoline additive MTBE by making it more difficult for citizens, communities, and states to recover their costs of cleaning up contaminated drinking water supplies.
“This energy bill also threatens the wildlife and subsistence values of the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Furthermore, it attempts to significantly increase the chances that a broad range of oil and gas activities will be excluded from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, weakening public involvement and undermining the assessment of their harmful impacts.
“The final bill does nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, nothing to reduce oil consumption, and fails to address the biggest threat facing our planet: global warming. What it does do is provide billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to an oil and gas industry that is already bragging about record profits.”