Republicans seek to turn up political heat over energy policy


Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, June 28 -- Energy policy dominated the agenda Thursday at the White House and on Capitol Hill on the eve of a 1-week congressional recess.

The administration of President George W. Bush formally sent to Capitol Hill the legislative portions of its National Energy Strategy.

The document noted most of the energy plan's recommendations are administrative in nature but "a significant number of important initiatives require congressional action."

The White House plan seeks more funding for energy efficiency research and development, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pipeline safety laws, electricity restructuring, and a market-based program to reduce stationary source emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury.

Democrats called the latest Bush action a "Reader's Digest" version of its longer May blueprint. "There is nothing in this document sent to Congress that isn't already being discussed," said one Senate Democratic congressional source.

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), House minority leader, said, "Instead of offering a public relations offensive, why not offer a real offensive that has long-term energy policy we can stick with."

GOP lawmakers maintained that Democrats have largely ignored the nation's energy problems.

"Washington, DC, has overlooked the energy issue for 8 or 9 years," Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told reporters, referring to the Clinton administration.

Several House committees are preparing to introduce legislation that would seek to codify the White House energy proposals. But GOP leaders have indicated each committee's bill will be considered separately rather than in an omnibus legislative package.

Meanwhile, the White House has been working with Republican leaders in both houses on how to sell its energy policy to the public, Congressional sources said. Polls suggest voters blame industry and Republicans in Congress for higher electricity and gasoline prices instead of Democrats. GOP leaders want to convey the message that increasing domestic energy supplies is a national security issue.

Some Democrats want the nonpartisan General Accounting Office to expand an investigation of the White House's energy policy drafting process. GAO has asked the White House for documents and notes related to meetings with industry during the spring before the energy blueprint was released in May. Now Democrats want GAO to look into an administration climate change task force's discussions with stakeholders.

In the Senate, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, wants to move forward quickly with legislation that has bipartisan support.

According to a June 20 staff document, there are 30 proposals on which both parties agree. Not included are energy tax incentives, a subject that the tax-writing committees of the House and Senate are expected to take up later this summer (OGJ Online, June 20, 2001).

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at maureenl@ogjonline.com

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