PIRG charges polluters rewarded

PIRG charges polluters rewarded

By Joe Baker

PIRG charges polluters rewarded

By Joe Baker

Senior editor

A bill now in the U.S. House of Representatives would double government subsidies to the oil, coal and nuclear power industries if it passes.

So says a report released by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and Republicans for Environmental Protection.

The report, “Running on Empty: How Environmentally Harmful Energy Subsidies Siphon Billions from Taxpayers,” outlines new and existing subsidies to oil, coal, gas and nuclear companies that amount to $62 billion in the next 10 years.

PIRG estimates existing handouts to what it considers polluting energy industries, some $33 billion at present, will be raised by nearly 100 percent to $62 billion. Industry allies in Congress are promoting these payments, despite a looming federal deficit of $100 billion.

“We are witnessing a doubling in handouts to polluters—a whopping $62 billion in taxpayer money to oil, coal, gas and nuclear industries in combined new and existing subsidies,” said David Weiner, spokesman for PIRG.”With the tight budget situation we are in, there is a clear challenge to the U.S. Senate to do the right thing and avoid the route the House has taken,” he added.

Debate on the bill is about to begin. Although the legislation is as yet incomplete, some suspect subsidies are emerging.

The Green Scissors Report cites the oil and coal research programs of the U.S. Department of Energy. These programs are projected to cost taxpayers $2.5 billion in the next decade.

The report claims they subsidize mature, “polluting” industries and increase our reliance on energy sources that are prime gnerators of smog, soot and global warming. PIRG says oil and coal-fired power plants in Illinois released 94,650,417 tons of carbon dioxide.

Another item critcized by the report is the Price-Anderson Act, which it said, props up a faltering nuclear industry that produces deadly wastes, which has no safe disposal method. The report said the act represents a multi-billion dollar insurance subsidy that shields nuclear power plants from the full cost of a nuclear accident. Corporations such as Commonwealth Edison would not be required to compensate residents of an area affected by a nuclear accident.

“The report documents some of the tax breaks and subsidies that energy giants such

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as Enron, which paid no corporate income taxes in four of the last five years, lobbied for and got in the House energy bill. Enron would benefit enormously from tax breaks on pipelines as well as royalty subsidies to industry that combined, total $4.9 billion over 10 years,” commented Brian Metcalf, environmental associate for Illinois PIRG.

Gerald Neff, chairman of the Eagle View Chapter of the Sierra Club, based in Bettendorf, Iowa, stated:”Adding insult to injury, the companies are using taxpayer money in ways that devastate our water, our air, our land and our health. For example, in Illinois, citizens reported an estimated 33,100 asthma attacks, 283,000 lost workdays and a mortality rate of 24.8 per 100,000 people from power plant pollution.”

Weiner stated: “These handouts reward the energy polluters that have devastated our environment at taxpayer expense. We urge the Senate to move us toward a cleaner, smarter energy future and to reject the type of thinking behind H.R.4.”

The Green Scissors Coalition includes a number of environmental groups, among them the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as those previously mentioned.

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