|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 23, 1998
|CONTACT: Critical Mass Energy Project
Wenonah Hauter 202-546-4996 x. 350
Charlie Higley 202-546-4996 x. 309
Booth Gunter 202-588-7741
Wellstone, Hightower And Grassroots Groups Launch Nationwide Campaign to Protect
Consumers, Environment as Utilities Deregulate
Sen. Wellstone, Rep. Kucinich to Introduce Federal Legislation
- June 23 -- More than 100 organizations across the country today kicked
off a grassroots campaign to ensure that consumers and the environment are protected as
the electric utility industry is deregulated.
The campaign -- Weve Got the Power: Ratepayers for Affordable Green Energy -- will
work to support federal legislation to be introduced later this summer by U.S. Rep. Dennis
Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota). The legislation will address the
critical issues that are vital to consumers and natural resources as the $220 billion
electric utility industry is broken up and restructured over the next few years.
Press events were to be held in over 20 locations. Sen. Wellstone, Rep. Kucinich, and
consumer advocate Ralph Nader headlined the campaign in Washington, D.C., at the Capitol.
David Brower, one of the nations best-known environmental leaders and founder of
Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute, announced support for the campaign in
California. Jim Hightower, well-known political commentator and radio personality, spoke
at the Texas press conference.
Sen. Wellstone summed up his intent to have a proactive agenda. "There must be a
voice for citizens at the grass roots level," he said. "We must have the courage
and vision to put forward an agenda that protects consumers from rip-offs and
cost-shifting, ensures that power generation is not harmful to
human health or the environment, shields low-income communities from degraded electric
service, guards people in rural areas from less reliable service, and promotes a future
where clean and affordable energy options prevail."
Rep. Kucinich said, "Utility deregulation threatens to cost consumers more for
electricity, cause the air to be dirtier and global warming to increase, and to leave
nuclear power plants operating at dangerously understaffed levels. But by banding together
in this campaign, consumers have power. Together, we have the power to guarantee that
there will be no bailouts, that we will pay lower prices, that we will have cleaner air,
and that Congress will act to put these guarantees into law."
Brower outlined his concern about electricity deregulation and his support for the
campaign, "Deregulation is driving big energy interests to forget the conservation
and efficient technology programs that the best of them were doing very well," he
said. "The technologies exist to provide for our energy needs without sacrificing the
future to pollution and climate change. We should be investing in securing a safer energy
future, not in any attempt to bail out our past mistakes. The ratepayers have suffered
enough from the Great Nuclear Blooper. The grassroots campaign outlined here today has the
vision to move us forward on the path to a rational and affordable energy future for all
Nader characterized the battle ahead at the Capitol news conference. "Billions of
dollars are at stake as big energy companies lobby Congress to deregulate the electric
utility industry," he said. "Powerful economic and political interests are
clashing at both the state and national levels in an effort to profit. If these vested
interests succeed, we will be left with a few energy companies who control our energy
future and who will weaken our democracy by their collateral political powers. Only a
citizens movement with its own legislative agenda can counterbalance the forces of
"The big energy companies dont care about residential and small business
consumers," Hightower said. "Rural and low-income families are especially at
risk in this current effort to deregulate the electric industry. We must have legislation
which offers a floor of protections for real people."
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