Nuclear industry gave millions to Congress
As the US Senate debates a comprehensive energy bill (S14) that features unprecedented subsidies to promote commercial nuclear power, an analysis of nuclear industry campaign contributions suggests that energy policy is for sale in the halls of Congress. The President's industry-endorsed energy policy, unveiled in 2001, drew attention to the inappropriate cosiness between the Bush administration and energy industry executives. According to the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Political Action Committees (PACs) affiliated with oil and gas companies and electric utilities — the main beneficiaries of the Bush energy policy — gave more than $17 million to congressional campaigns in the 2002 election cycle alone. And PAC contributions are just the tip of the iceberg. CRP calculates that total contributions over the same period from these energy interests (including individual and "soft money" contributions) were nearly $45 million. Like the energy bill recently passed by the US House of Representatives (HR 6), energy legislation now before the Senate is larded with giveaways to these lucrative industries, at the expense of consumers, taxpayers and the environment. In particular, the Senate bill provides substantial subsidies to promote the construction of new nuclear power reactors. For instance, one provision authorises government loan guarantees and power purchase agreements to finance up to half the costs of reactor construction, which could leave taxpayers liable for an estimated $30 billion. Analysis by Public Citizen of nuclear industry PAC contributions to members of the current Congress highlights this industry's egregious influence on lawmakers. The new report examines PAC contributions from companies that own or operate nuclear power plants to current House representatives in the 2002 election cycle, and to senators of the current Congress in the past three election cycles. The report found that PACs contributed more than $5.8 million to the House and Senate campaigns of members of Congress in the 2002 election cycle. Current members of the Senate received more than $3.2 million from these nuclear PACs over the past three election cycles. The 23 members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee took almost half a million dollars from nuclear power plant PACs in the 2002 cycle, and close to $1 million over the past three election cycles — nearly one third of the total Senate receipts. In the 2002 election cycle, nuclear PACs contributed nearly $3.8 million to Republicans, almost 65 percent of the total amount of their contributions. Democrats, on the other hand, received about $2 million from those PACs, roughly 35 percent of the total. "Politicians insist that their votes are not for sale, but the anti- consumer, anti-environment and fiscally irresponsible nuclear provisions in Senate energy legislation will test the loyalties of many members", said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Rather than pandering to the interests of nuclear industry executives, lawmakers should reject this energy bill and instead work toward forward- looking policy that promotes safe, clean and affordable energy."
* * *Public Citizen