Last month on May 1, 2007, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered energy legislation sponsored by Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Ranking Member Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). So-called environmental groups came out publicly opposing the bill and sent a letter to the Energy Committee urging members on the committee to vote against it. Despite their opposition, the bill passed. Two weeks later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), incorporated the bill that passed out of Energy Committee into a broader energy package now being considered on the Senate Floor.
As a result, the language that offended these groups remains the same, but the sponsor – from Bingaman to Majority Leader Reid - has changed. With that change, the critics have now gone silent.
The groups that opppsed the bill include the American Farmland Trust, Clean Air Task Force, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Union of Concerned Scientists U.S. PIRG, and The Wilderness Society.
In their May 1, 2007 letter opposing Chairman Bingaman’s mark, they wrote:
“...we urge you to oppose in its current form Chairman Bingaman’s mark (“Chairman’s Mark”) of the energy bill scheduled to be marked up on May 2, 2007 in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. We regret our need to oppose this legislation, but it would dramatically increase biofuels production in the U.S. without also establishing the necessary safeguards to ensure this increase does not cause substantial environmental harm.”
“Major environmental groups yesterday took the unusual step of publicly opposing a high-profile piece of energy legislation sponsored by a prominent Senate Democrat. More than a dozen groups banded together to send a letter to lawmakers urging them to oppose legislation the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to mark up today. While the panel is expected to pull together four separate pieces of legislation into one measure, the groups demanded lawmakers oppose the entire bill over a provision dealing with biofuels.”
Surprisingly – or perhaps not that surprising – once the majority leader’s name was added to the bill, the one-time vocal critics went silent. If these groups have integrity and act on their claims of speaking for the environment and the public, their opposition should become even more vocal.
When they opposed Senator Inhofe's Gas PRICE Act amendment, they threatened members if they supported it, the League of Conservation Voters would "score" the vote.
Where are the threats? Where are the scored votes?