Jeffords leads filibuster against energy bill

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(Host) Senator Jim Jeffords says he’ll help lead a filibuster on a proposed energy bill.

Jeffords says the legislation is little more than a multi-billion dollar “giveaway” to the nation’s oil and gas industries.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation, which passed the House earlier this week, includes almost $24 billion in tax credits that are designed to stimulate domestic oil, gas and coal production.

The proposal also includes new subsidies to sharply increase the production of ethanol fuels.

Jeffords, who’s the ranking minority member of the Senate Environment committee, says the bill is “a disaster”.

(Jeffords) It’s a terrible bill. We dubbed it the ‘leave no special interests left behind act’ — a $25 billion give-away to the oil and gas industry, as near as I can read it, and I’m going to filibuster it. I don’t think I’ve ever filibustered; maybe I did before, but that’s how bad I think it is.

(Kinzel) Jeffords is very concerned that the legislation will have serious long term negative impacts on the environment.

(Jeffords) It’s just a disaster for the environment…it changes the ozone compliance deadlines, meaning more dirty air for more cities longer. And that means loss of lives and everything connected to that. It exempts the oil and gas companies from the clean water act for stormwater pollution control. Those areas are devastating…so it is a disaster.

(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy also strongly opposes the legislation. Leahy is very upset that the bill exempts the producers of the gasoline additive MTBE from all liability lawsuits – MTBE has been discovered in many water supplies after the substance leaked out from underground storage tanks.

(Leahy) Not only in Vermont but everywhere around, communities and states are facing millions upon millions of dollars they have to spend to clean up from that, and to suddenly say to the manufacturers, ‘oh by the way, we’ll just toss that whole cost onto the taxpayers and we’ll give you a free ride,’ that makes no sense at all. The only way it makes sense is that some special interest was really able to get into whoever was writing this bill.

(Kinzel) The first effort to break the filibuster in the Senate is scheduled to take place on Friday morning. Both sides say the vote is too close to call at this time.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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