WASHINGTON - June 14 - Congress is considering hobbling public and regulatory oversight of the energy industry under the guise of promoting renewable energy, conservationists warned today. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote tomorrow or Wednesday on HR 4513, which would drastically curtail the amount of information that energy regulators would release to the public about hydropower dams, garbage incinerators, ethanol facilities, pipelines, transmission corridors, and possibly even mines and oil wells.
"This bill is a cynical wolf in sheep's clothing," said Andrew Fahlund, Senior Program Director for American Rivers and chair of the Hydropower Reform Coalition. "Supporters of this bill don't want to light your home with clean solar power, they want to keep you in the dark about the activities of some generous contributors."
Should the bill become law, energy companies and electric utilities could conceivably apply the "renewable energy" label to almost any infrastructure except a nuclear, coal, gas, or oil combustion plant. These facilities would be broadly exempted from the National Environmental Policy Act's requirements that the federal government fully document a range of alternatives to energy companies' proposal for the consideration of local communities.
Under this bill, communities could only review information selectively provided by the energy company about hydropower dams, garbage incinerators, ethanol facilities, pipelines, transmission corridors, and possibly even mines and oil wells. The public would be denied the opportunity to suggest alternatives that would:
-- Reduce the pollution the facility would create
-- Minimize the damage to fish and wildlife habitat
-- Ensure public safety in the event of dam failure
-- Secure hazardous materials stored on site
-- Manage the amount of water it would consume
-- Decrease the amount of traffic it would generate
-- Prevent noise and odor from carrying into surrounding areas
Community leaders, the press, watchdog organizations, and the public at large would have just 20 days to review whatever information was made available.
"This bill should be called the 'nasty surprises' bill," Fahlund said. "If it becomes law, a lot of people are going to wake up to proposals for municipal waste incinerators in their neighborhoods, dams in their rivers, ethanol depots next to their schools, and even oil rigs off of their coastlines, and they won't be able to say much about it."
Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA-11th) first introduced the bill late in the day on Friday, June 4th. The House leadership has signaled it will bring the bill up for a vote this week without committee hearings, markup, or any other customary opportunities for deliberation. Conservationists expect a straight up or down vote without any opportunity for members to offer amendments.
"No hearings. No deliberation. No amendments. Just open your mouth and say 'aye,'" Fahlund said. "That's the treatment members of Congress are getting from House leaders and that's what your community can look forward to if enough members go along with it."
Full text of the bill available:
Fact sheet on the bill at:
State breakdowns of utility owned hydropower dams this bill would affect are available.