Rural Missouri Magazine

Someone else's porch

Frank Stork
by Frank Stork

by Frank Stork

The United States Senate announced recently that the on again, off again effort to pass a comprehensive energy bill is on again. The status changed because the sponsors of the legislation completely revamped the 2003 version of the bill that stalled in the final days of last year’s session.

The Senate energy bill was not debated on the floor of the Senate last year because the leadership did not have enough votes to overcome a threatened filibuster. Opponents of the bill said it was too costly and contained too many giveaways for the energy industry.

Because of the formidable opposition, the Senate adjourned in December without taking action on the energy bill. Shortly after that, supporters of the legislation announced they would bring the same bill back early in 2004. The supporters would use the congressional break period to get the two additional votes needed for passage.

When January arrived, the Senate did not try to advance the bill. They needed to work on the budget and transportation bills before they would take up the energy bill again.

Some predicted they would not take up the energy bill at all because the budget was already indicating a $521 billion deficit! That number did not include the billions they would need for military support and rebuilding programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $31 billion price tag on the energy bill was just too much to add to the already large deficit.

The status of the Senate energy bill was changed to on again only after the cost was pared down to $15 billion. Also, the new version was stripped of the provision that would grant liability waivers for producers of MTBE, the gasoline additive accused of contaminating ground water. The MTBE provision was inserted in the House bill last year. And, according to House leaders, they will not consider a bill this year that removes the liability wavers!

With an apparent stalemate looming, political pundits in Washington are having a field day speculating about the final outcome of the energy bill. While many expect the House to bend a little bit if the Senate sends them a revamped energy bill, an equal number say this new Senate version does not have a chance in the House.

One seasoned Capitol Hill sage put it rather succinctly when he said, “It looks to me like someone is getting ready to throw their dead cat on someone else’s porch!” While most had not heard that down-home metaphor, everyone knew what it meant!

We will watch the energy legislation closely to make sure it retains benefits for electricity users living in rural America. If we are able to accomplish that, we can be sure a comprehensive energy bill will be good for electricity consumers no matter where they live.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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