"I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together around a hard-fought compromise that will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track," President Barack Obama said in an official statement Wednesday night.
While other interests are concerned with issues such as the balance between tax cuts and spending, many environmental groups are relieved that a provision in the Senate's version that could have been used to fund new nuclear reactors has been cut from the final text.
The conference committee axed a proposal to include $50 billion in federal loan guarantees that could have been utilized by the nuclear and coal industries as well as for renewable energy projects.
Called Title 17, the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, the provision would have put aside $50 billion to guarantee loans under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for eligible projects, to remain available until committed.
Last week, 243 environmental, consumer, and religious organizations and small businesses sent a joint letter to senators expressing their "dismay and anger over the inclusion by the Senate Appropriations Committee of a provision in the economic stimulus bill to provide up to $50 billion in additional taxpayer loan guarantees that could be used for construction of new nuclear reactors and 'clean coal' plants."
"This is a big victory for common sense and the American taxpayer," said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear who helped lead the campaign on Capitol Hill to cut the $50 billion from the bill.
FirstEnergy's Perry nuclear power plant on the shore of Lake Erie near Cleveland, Ohio. Constructed at a cost of $6 billion, Perry is one of the most expensive power plants ever built. (Photo courtesy FirstEnergy)
"The nuclear industry has received an estimated $500 billion dollars in public subsidies over the past half century," Kamps added. "This monumental waste of money had to end. The nuclear energy industry cannot solve the climate crisis and fattening the nuclear calf has deprived real energy solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency programs from essential support for decades."
The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry association, points out that the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program would have provided loan guarantees for all energy projects that avoid, reduce or store air pollutants or greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly improved technologies. Among the projects eligible for this funding would have been renewable energy systems, advanced fossil energy technology, hydrogen fuel cells, advanced nuclear energy facilities, energy efficiency programs, transmission technologies, hybrid or diesel vehicles and carbon capture or storage technology, the NEI stated.
Many of those technologies will receive funding from other sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
There are 10 lawmakers represented in the conference committee. The majority party, the Democrats in both chambers, get an extra person from the Senate and House, so there are six Democrats and four Republicans in the group.
From the Senate: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, Finance Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Appropriations Vice Chairman Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican.
From the House: Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, California Democrat, Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, New York Democrat, Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis, California Republican, and Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp, Michigan Republican.
They were joined in their deliberations by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, who are not part of the conference committee.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.