Recently, I wrote about the No Nukes crowd fighting to remove $50 billion worth of nuclear industry subsidies from landmark energy legislation. Indeed, an upwelling of grassroots opposition – including 130,000 signatures collected by Nukefree.org – has kept the Energy Bill to be voted on in the House this week nuclear subsidy-free
“There are no subsidies for nuclear industry in the bill,” Brendan Daly, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, confirmed for me yesterday.
“We’re celebrating a partial victory,” said Harvey Wasserman, co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and editor of Freepress.org. “But we’re not out of the woods yet.”
That’s because – like nuclear waste itself – the industry and its cronies never go away. $50 billion is enough to fund 25 plants, and despite the fact that so few people want these monstrosities that can’t pay for themselves and are environmental and security nightmares to boot – Big Nuclear will not walk away from bundles of free taxpayer money without a fight.
Senator Pete Domenici is expected to fight the Energy Bill’s 15 percent renewable portfolio standard(the amount of electricity utilities must produce from renewable sources) and perhaps condition his support on including the $50 billion nuclear bailout. And with every piece of legislation requiring 60 votes to overcome the seemingly permanent Republican filibuster, Domenici & Friends will wield their power like a radioactive weapon. If the Nukes fail there, there will probably be another battle on the Appropriations bill, or even the Lieberman-Warner climate legislation where the nuclear industry has already submitted a “wish list” of amendments to the bill.
The coalition working with NukeFree.org includes the core of the environmental movement, as well as TrueMajority, MoveOn.org, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and others. The Union of Concerned Scientists has circulated a separate petition, and the Cato Institute and Forbes magazine have voiced strong opposition to the subsidies as well. Look for the coalition to continue to reach out to conservatives, libertarians and taxpayer rights groups like Taxpayers for Common Sense, Grover Norquist, Paul Gigot (editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page), the American Enterprise Institute and other free marketeers and fiscal conservatives.
Representatives John Hall (a MUSE co-founder, longtime anti-nuke activist and great musician formerly of the band Orleans) and Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas are circulating a letter for their colleagues to sign onto – addressed to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid – which reads in part, “Given [its] record of risk and nonperformance, expanding taxpayer support for nuclear power would be throwing good money after bad. In order to truly make the most progress possible toward a clean, profitable, independent energy future for our nation it will be more effective to devote maximum federal support to renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, geothermal as well as new technologies and improvements in efficiency…. We urge you to take one more step by removing new taxpayer supports for nuclear power from the final legislation that will be considered by Congress….”
Moving forward, it’s clear that continued vigilance will be needed – even if NukeFree.org and its allies are successful on the Energy Bill which Wasserman expects to be “a real cliffhanger, with our future in the balance.” But, he says, vigilance isn’t a problem: “We’ve won this much and are committed to continuing the fight as long as it takes.”