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Kerry-Lieberman bill averted for now, but "energy-only bill" nuclear threats persist in U.S. Senate

Democratic Party leaders have indefinitely postponed the Kerry-Lieberman “American Power Act” climate-energy bill, due to lock-step Republican opposition to carbon cap “energy taxation,” but nuclear power subsidies must still be vigilantly guarded against in other legislation.

The Kerry-Lieberman "American Power Act" would have subsidized new atomic reactors in various ways, including raising nuclear power loan guarantee funding levels to $54.5 billion, as called for by the Obama administration. In addition, Kerry-Lieberman would have introduced a number of significant rollbacks on nuclear safety regulations. Analyses by NRDC, PSR, FOE, and UCS have highlighted numerous environmental and taxpayer concerns with the bill. NIRS has reported on how the nuclear loan guarantees would actually benefit foreign firms and workers, not American firms and workers, despite the financial risks being borne by American taxpayers. Despite Kerry-Lieberman's postponement, attachment of such provisions to other bills that are moving must still be guarded against.

However, the Senate has not recessed for its annual summer getaway from Washington D.C.'s blistering heat and humidity yet, and won't till August 7th. Thus, we must remain vigilant against any attempts by the politically savvy and powerful nuclear power industry to attach its mile-long-wish-list to another package of energy legislation that might reach the Senate floor, including by amendments offered by pro-nuclear Senators.

One bill to continue to watch out for is Sen. Bingaman's "American Clean Energy Leadership Act" (ACELA), which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June 2009. It contains unlimited nuclear power loan guarantees, without congressional appropriations oversight.

Appropriations bills in both houses of Congress must also be watched out for. The House of Representatives passed $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees on the emergency supplemental war and disaster relief funding bill on July 1st. The House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee also recently passed $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees on its Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. If ultimately enacted into law, this would add up to the $34 billion in expanded nuclear loan guarantees called for by the Obama administration for FY2011.

Although final Senate action on such provisions is still pending, the Senate Appropriations Committee today did approve another $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantees.

It's ironic that the House and Senate continue to lard radioactive pork, in the form of nuclear loan guarantees, onto appropriations, climate and energy bills, given the U.S. Government Accountability Office's scathing report on the failing state of the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program. This includes the finding that DOE has given significant and undue advantage to nuclear power applicants, over other applicants.  Nuclear power subsidies even seem to be given priority over such basic societal needs as teachers' salaries, as pointed out by FOE.

As these appropriations bills continue to make their way through each house of Congress, and eventually merge in conference committee, we must continue to express our opposition to nuclear power subsidies at every turn.

Call both your U.S. Senators and Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. At the Library of Congress website, you can also look up your Members' fax numbers and postal addresses for submitting hand written letters, as well as their webform for submitting electronic mail: click on "Senate" and "House of Representatives" on the left hand side, to look up your own Members of Congress.

Urge them to block any nuclear power subsidies, or nuclear safety regulation rollbacks, from being added to any energy or appropriations legislation. Gather together a group of concerned citizens, or representatives of environmental and taxpayer groups in your area, and request a meeting with both of your Senators, as well as your U.S. Representative, during their visit home during the August congressional recess. If your Members of Congress say they are too busy to meet with you, request to meet with their staff instead. Contact Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear, (301) 270-2209 ext. 1 or, if you have any questions about how to set up a meeting with congressional home-district offices.