Illinois Clean Energy Friends
By Hans Detweiler, Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy
Stories in this edition include:
1. Renewable Energy Letter gains 143 signatures in US House of Representatives, including a bipartisan majority of the Illinois delegation. The letter urges a strong RPS in the Energy Bill currently in Conference Committee.
2. The American Solar Energy Society annual Tour of Solar Homes and Businesses is rapidly approaching on October 5th, 2002.
3. Public Citizen Report: House-Senate Energy Bill conferees are poised to repeal law protecting consumers, investors from Enron-style accounting and market manipulation.
4. Come see Illinois candidates for Governor and Attorney General address environmental and renewable energy issues at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago on September 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
5. The Park Forest Renewable Energy Information Seminar is approaching
on September 28, 2002.
6. California Governor Gray Davis signs Americas most ambitious Renewable Energy bill (20 percent) into law!
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1. 143 U.S. Representatives sign letter encouraging renewable energy development:
U.S. Representatives Wamp (R-TN) and Udall (D-CO) recently circulated a Dear Colleague letter encouraging Energy Bill Conference Committee members to support a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard and gained 143 signatures of support. With vigorous support from ELPC and our regional allies, key Midwestern states once again demonstrated robust support for the Renewable Portfolio Standard, with bipartisan majorities of the Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin delegations all
signing the letter. Illinois Representatives Blagojevich (D), Davis (D), Evans (D), Gutierrez, Jackson (D), Johnson (R), Kirk (R), Manzullo (R), Phelps (D), Schakowsky (D), and Shimkus (R) all signed the Wamp-Udall letter. Representative Ray LaHood (R) also sent his own letter supporting renewable energy development to conferees.
Unfortunately, House Energy Bill conferees rejected an amendment adding the Senate RPS to the new House electricity title proposal on a nearly party-line vote on September 19th, with all Republicans voting against the RPS and all Democrats except one voting for it. However, Senate conferees still want the RPS, so its not over yet. Now is an excellent time to contact your U.S. representative and senators and urge them to support the RPS.
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2. Solar Home Tours come to Illinois on October 5th.
Numerous Solar Home Tours are occurring around the state on October
5th. Tours are in Evanston, North Chicago, Ogle County, Southwest suburban Chicago, Stelle, and Pomona. For more information on how to attend the tours, see the American Solar Energy Society website at:
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3. Public Citizen Report: House-Senate conferees poised to repeal law protecting consumers, investors from Enron-style accounting and market manipulation.
Sept. 18, 2002
Corporations seeking repeal accused of trading scams in California
WASHINGTON, D.C.Some of the major corporations pushing Congress to repeal the consumer-protection law known as the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) are the same ones that are being investigated for gouging ratepayers and manipulating the California energy market through schemes involving sham energy trading and the withholding of electricity,
according to a Public Citizen report released today.
House and Senate conferees, who are trying to reconcile differences in energy legislation passed by both chambers, are expected to begin taking up the electricity provisions of the competing bills as early as Thursday. While most public debate has centered on the massive subsidies to energy companies in the bill, the Senate bill also repeals PUHCA, an obscure, Depression-era law that is supposed to ensure that electric, natural gas and water utilities invest profits in providing reliable service rather than fueling the Enron-style acquisition of assets unrelated to their core energy
Members of Congress declare themselves to be tough on corporate crime when the camera is rolling, but behind closed doors they are trying to make it even easier for rapacious energy companies to rip off the public and investors, said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. The energy giants that are being investigated for rigging the California energy market are the same ones that are lobbying behind the scenes to get rid of the Public Utility Holding Company Act. Rather than protecting ratepayers and shareholders, Congress is preparing to strip away any vestige of accountability and transparency there is left.
The energy industry poured $44 million into lobbying Congress on PUHCA and other issues in 2001 alone, and has contributed more than $16 million to federal candidates since 1999, according to the report. This total includes lobbying by individual companies and their various anti-regulation trade associations, such as the Edison Electric Institute and the Coalition to Repeal PUHCA Now!
Enacted in 1935, PUHCA has historically prohibited holding companies from investing ratepayers money in assets that will not directly contribute to low bills and reliable service, such as out-of-region power plants or non-electricity industries like water or telecommunications. However, the 1992 Energy Policy Act allowed holding companies to invest ratepayer money in foreign power projects. This permitted the development of offshore subsidiaries and sham transactions that eventually led to the downfall of
sprawling corporate structures. The law has been further weakened by exemptions and lack of adequate enforcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Abolishing PUHCA would largely remove government oversight from companies such as American Electric Power, Duke Energy, CMS Energy, Southern Company/ Mirant and Xcel. As some of the leading energy providers in todays deregulated markets, these corporations claim they can be trusted in the absence of supervision. But it was exactly thatthe lack of government supervisionthat allowed Enron to build its far-flung empire, manipulate markets and use accounting gimmickry to conceal debt and inflate income. Had there been a regulated system to ensure corporate responsibility and transparent accounting practices, it is likely that Californias recent energy crisis and the accounting fraud that followed would have been impossible.
In the report, Public Citizen examines the record of five companies seeking PUHCA repeal: American Electric Power, Duke Energy, CMS Energy, Southern Company/ Mirant and Xcelall of which are under investigation for fraudulent trading and/or accounting practices and accused by state and federal investigators of gouging billions of dollars from California consumers during the artificially created energy crisis of 2000 and 2001.
The repeal of PUHCA would have devastating consequences for consumers and investors by leading to more Enron-style meltdowns, further industry consolidation and the creation of complex corporate structures that reduced transparency and accountability, said Tyson Slocum, research director for Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.
We need to demand that these energy companies be good corporate citizens,
but its clear they will not do it without strict standards of accountability. Government oversight is an indispensable measure needed to maintain an affordable and reliable energy market. Congress should be strengthening PUHCA, not ditching it. The full report can be viewed online at http://www.citizen.org/documents/cmeep15.pdf.
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4. Illinois Candidates for Governor and Attorney General to discuss environmental and renewable energy issues at the Union League Club on September 25th from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (65 W. Jackson Blvd, Chicago).
Individual tickets are $45.
The Forum is sponsored by the Illinois Environmental Council. Attending will be:
Joe Birkett, Republican candidate for Attorney General
Lisa Madigan, Democratic candidate for Attorney General
Pat Quinn, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor (on behalf of Rod Blagojevich)
Jim Ryan, Republican candidate for Governor
For more information or to register see:
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5. Park Forest Renewable Energy Information Seminar:
The Park Forest Illinois Environmental Conservation Commission is sponsoring the second annual Renewable Energy Information Seminar on Sept.28, 2002 at 350 Victory, the Village Hall, 8 a.m. -1 p.m. Presentations and workshops on Solar & Wind Power, Geothermal. Sustainable Urban Design, Biomass, Biodiesel, Alternative Fueled Vehicles. Sponsors include IREA,ISEA, ISEN, GTI, and the Council of Great Lakes Governors.
Entertainment by The Barefoot Hawaiians. Saturday is also the day for the
Kiwanis Pancake Day with 5,000 served and also the Farmers Market. For more information, call Bernie at (708) 747-6867 or email@example.com
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6. California Governor Gray Davis recently signed into law the nations most ambitious state Renewable Portfolio Standard, a 20 percent requirement for all utilities in the state. For more, see coverage in the San Jose Mercury News: http://www.bayarea.com/mld/bayarea/business/4064977.htm and http://www.bayarea.com/mld/bayarea/news/breaking_news/4062226.htm.
Hans Detweiler, Environmental Law & Policy Center, 35 E. Wacker, Suite 1300 Chicago, IL 60601, 312-795-3720; (fax) 312-795-3730 Hdetweiler@ELPC.org