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Nuclear Waste Reform Among First Energy Bills

Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 1995

is the will [in Congress] to do it."

Other energy-related bills introduced by the 104th Congress would:

s Phase out federal funding for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) over a two-year period (fiscal 1996 and 1997) to reduce the deficit. The bill, S. 43, is sponsored by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI). Feingold says that ending federal appropriations to TVA programs would save $600 million over five years.

s Require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reexamine its risk assessment standards and cost/benefit analysis for environmental regulations, with an eye to reducing the $185-billion-a-year cost of environmental compliance to U.S. industry. The measure, S. 123, is sponsored by Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-NY). EEI's Kuhn warns that a broad-based U.S. industry coalition (em which would be larger than the business coalition that defeated the Clinton administration's Btu tax proposal two years ago (em is being organized to lobby Congress on behalf of more reasonable risk assessment standards. Kuhn says that risk assessment standards will significantly impact utility operations in the areas of electromagnetic fields and nuclear plant construction and operation.

s Amend the IRS Code to permit businesses that fall under the alternative minimum tax (AMT) to take advantage of existing tax credits for investment in solar and geothermal energy facilities. The bill, S. 108, is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. James

Jeffords (R-VT).

s Strengthen natural gas pipeline safety laws to prevent fatal explosions like last year's in Edison, NJ. The bill would require pipeline companies to pay for oversight inspections by the Transportation Department, establish a one-call notification system to check pipeline siting for contractors before they dig, increase inspection and siting requirements, and mandate the remote-control shutoff valves the gas industry opposes. The bill, S. 162, is sponsored by New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D) and Bill Bradley (D).

s Refinance Bonneville Power Administration's debts to the federal government. The bill, S. 92, is sponsored by Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR), who is trying to prevent the sale of Bonneville and other federal power marketing agencies as a way of reducing the deficit. The Clinton Administration's National Performance Review last year recommended that Bonneville buy out its outstanding low-interest debt obligations and replace them with debt that Bonneville would issue on the open market. Hatfield, incoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said such proposals would increase electric rates in the Pacific Northwest; Bonneville markets over half the electric power consumed in the Pacific Northwest. Hatfield labeled suggestions to sell Bonneville "absurdity."

Under Hatfield's refinancing plan, approximately $6.7 billion of Bonneville's total debt obligations would be refinanced at today's interest rates, and the current value of the outstanding principal would be increased by $100 million. In exchange, Bonneville ratepayers would receive a "permanent guarantee" that the government will never again increase the costs of repaying the federal investment in the Columbia River hydroelectric system.

There will also be a renewed effort to pass a major telecommunications reform bill. Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD) told his colleagues: "As incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee this year, I