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Did Democratic Leaders Try to Buy a House Seat With a $25 Billion Nuclear Bailout?
WASHINGTON - July 15 - Today, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee included a $25 billion preemptive bailout of the nuclear industry, in the form of loan guarantees for new reactors, in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
Members of the subcommittee delayed markup of the appropriations bill until the bailout was included in the legislation, with Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards being particularly vocal.
Since May, Congressman Edwards has been using nuclear bailouts as an election issue against his opponent in Texas's 17th District, attacking him for suggesting that federal money should not be used to construct nuclear reactors. Edwards wants a preemptive bailout for an expansion of the Comanche Peak reactor in his district.
"It is interesting that a $25 billion preemptive bailout for the nuclear industry appeared in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill shortly after it became a campaign issue for Congressman Chet Edwards," said Ben Schreiber of Friends of the Earth Action. "It's enough to ask whether the House leadership is risking $25 billion of taxpayer money so one House seat stays in the Democratic column. Politics should never trump public safety or wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars, but it's not clear that's the case with this $25 billion of potential radioactive pork."
The inclusion of a $25 billion nuclear bailout in the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill is not the first time that the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee program may have been used to reward House Democrats. Last month, a $9 billion preemptive nuclear bailout was included in the House Supplemental Appropriations bill for projects in Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip James Clyburn's districts, while money to prevent teacher layoffs was stripped from the bill.
"Are House Democrats treating the Department of Energy loan guarantee program like a campaign credit card?" asked Friends of the Earth Action's Schreiber. "What we know for sure is that they have let important priorities like energy efficiency and teachers die on the vine, while putting taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars if the nuclear industry defaults on its loans. This nuclear bailout will also endanger public safety due to the vulnerable nuclear waste storage processes, inadequate nuclear security and continued reactor design flaws it will promote."
Schreiber also noted that the news of this latest $25 billion nuclear bailout came shortly after the Government Accountability Office released a report on July 12, 2010, slamming the Loan Guarantee program for being inadequately planned and executed. The Government Accountability Office report can be found here.