A Letter from My Congressional Representative
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
14th Congressional District of California
Yes, I realize this is a form letter, but I wished to pass it along, to show my support for the environmental causes my Congressperson has been working towards, and also to highlight some of the national and community issues we face.
Mr. Peter P. Corless
360 Chiquita Avenue Apt 4
Mountain View, California 94041
Dear Mr. Corless,
Over the last few weeks the House of Representatives has debated two important bills affecting basic environmental protections. More are likely to be considered and that's why I thought you'd like to receive an update from me at this juncture.
Endangered Species Act On September 29th the House passed H.R. 3824, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act by a vote of 229 to 193. I voted against this measure, which guts the Endangered Species Act (ESA), for two main reasons. First, it will undo many of the critical environmental protections that have saved hundreds of species, including the American Bald Eagle. Second, it will create a new entitlement program for any property owner who can demonstrate that he or she might be affected by the Act in even the slightest way.
For more than thirty years, the ESA has been a cornerstone of environmental protection and an enormous success. Of the more than 1,800 species that have been listed as threatened or endangered, 99% have been saved from extinction. I voted for a bipartisan alternative that would make improvements to the ESA without weakening its longstanding protections to preserve wildlife for future generations. Among other things, the bipartisan alternative I voted for would require the government to first determine whether public lands are sufficient to protect and save the endangered species before undertaking other measures that will impact private landowners. (Read my statement on the bill and the alternative at http://eshoo.house.gov/enews/esa.pdf)
Note: This link is wrong, and so it is not highlighted. I actually found the report here: http://eshoo.house.gov/enviro/esa.pdf. The "enews" directly was wrong; it should have been "enviro" instead. I reported the broken link in my reply to Rep. Eshoo's office.
Energy Legislation Almost two months to the day after the President signed his "comprehensive" energy bill into law, the House of Representatives passed a new bill on October 7th, the Gasoline for America's Security (GAS) Act, by a narrow 212-to-210 vote. The bill was so controversial that the Republican Leadership held the five-minute roll call vote open for more than 45 minutes in order to change votes and secure others that were needed for passage.
I voted against the bill when it was considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and when it was taken up by the full House.
Rushed through the House ostensibly as an emergency response to the fuel shortages and high gas prices resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the bill will do nothing to increase supplies or reduce prices in the short term. (Read my statement about the bill from the debate in the Energy and Commerce Committee as well as my Op-Ed about the bill which recently appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.)
What the bill will do is open up public lands, including National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and at least three closed military bases, to the oil and gas industry for oil refinery construction.
Under the bill, the President could designate virtually any federal land as "suitable" for the construction of an oil refinery. Once such a designation is made, the property must be leased for the construction of a refinery. There is no opportunity for the public to express their views on the designation.
Any proposal to build on one of these sites would be reviewed under a truncated process directed by the Secretary of Energy. There would be limited opportunity for judicial review, and the industry's legal bills (and only the industry's legal bills) could be reimbursed by the federal government.
My amendment to protect environmentally sensitive lands from such designations was blocked from being debated on the floor of the House. (Read my amendment, my statement, and my "Dear Colleague" letter about this issue.)
While the bill includes measures that will harm the environment, it will do virtually nothing to reduce oil or gasoline consumption that will preserve our natural resources. I cosponsored another important amendment that would have raised fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks from 25 to 33 miles per gallon (mpg). It was barred from consideration on the House floor.
I believe Rep. Eshoo is referring to the bill in the 107th Congress, "H.R. 2614, the Safety and Fuel Economy (SAFE) Act, which would have increaased the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard from 27.5 miles per gallon (for cars) and 20.7 mpg (for SUVs and light trucks) to a combined standard of 40 mpg by 2012. I plan to reintroduce this bill in the 108th Congress." This is what is described on her site. The averaged value for the car and light truck fuel efficiency would be raised in the near term to 33 mpg, and 40 mpg within six years.
Of course, it would help if fuel efficiency was measured accurately, rather than use outdated guidelines by the EPA that assume average highway speeds are 48 mph. Or that temperatures are always between 68 and 86 degrees. (See S.836, H.R.1103.) If new standards came down that reduced apparent CAFE mileage by more accurately measuring it, but required improvement over the present standards nonetheless, this would go a long way to more accurately predicting and minimizing our usage of fuel in the transportation sector.
I voted for an alternative bill which would have empowered the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general of each state to address fuel price gouging. Under the alternative, each instance of price gouging or market manipulation would be punishable by fines of up to $3 million and $1 million respectively. The amendment was defeated by a margin of 199 to 222. (Read my comments on price gouging, review a summary of the alternative bill, and view an informative chart about the oil production and distribution industry from the Washington Post.)
What's Next? Offshore Drilling, Drilling in the Arctic, Selling Off National Parks The House of Representatives is expected to take up legislation to raise federal revenues by allowing the oil and gas industry broad access to federally owned and managed lands. The House Resources Committee has already reported a bill that will give coastal states financial incentives if they petition to have federal moratoria on offshore oil drilling removed. The bill, as currently drafted, would also unilaterally repeal the federal moratoria on natural gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.
I'm pleased that the California Ocean Policy Commission stated the following in a letter to House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo:
Any pending federal legislation regarding Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing must retain all protections from the Congressional leasing moratorium and should seek to make these protections permanent [emphasis added]. (Read the full September 27, 2005 letter to Chairman Pombo.)
Chairman Pombo has also drafted legislation to sell off 15 National Parks and Historic Sites and to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in order to help balance the budget and pay for tax cuts.
I will vote against each of these proposals because I reject the notion that we need to sacrifice our federal lands and our environment to balance the budget and meet our energy needs. With only 2% of the world's oil reserves, the U.S. will never be able to drill its way to independence. Opening pristine areas of our natural landscape in the name of "energy independence" is a futile exercise, and sacrificing our natural legacy for a fleeting increase in revenues hardly makes sense. The revenues gained from these activities represent only a fraction of the more than $100 billion in additional tax cuts that the Administration and the House Majority Leadership have proposed.
These are critically important issues of our time. I always need your thoughts and benefit from your ideas, so if you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you.
Here is my reply to Rep. Eshoo:
To: Rep. Anna G. Eshoo
698 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, California 94301
Telephone: (650) 323-2984
Fax: (650) 323-3498
From: Mr. Peter P. Corless
360 Chiquita Avenue Apt 4
Mountain View, California 94041
Dear Rep. Eshoo,
In response to your December 13, 2005 email message to me, I have taken on a number of specific personal initiatives to help support your positions on environmental concerns.
I have joined Environment California (environmentcalifornia.org), an organization dedicated to clean air, clean water, and open spaces.
The organization is based out of Los Angeles, but I ran into local organizers in Mountain View. I called them tonight to speak about getting the message out to more people. I'll be pursuing more volunteer work. I am quite bullish on their calls for 20% of Californian power coming from renewable energy sources, and I'd like for you to see if you cannot garner national support for the same goal.
Right now there are nations in the EU that are at that rate, or are progressing towards that rate. My concern as an American is that we are leaving the nation dependent upon shaky, rather unfriendly governments who control petroleum. I'd like to see the United States of America, the land of the free, be freed from the chains of dependence on foreign petroleum resources. We can work towards the Million Solar Roofs and also work towards Wind Energy. Combined we should be able to nationally reach gigawatts of new energy production that can be built incrementally, efficiently, and economically.
If we can do 20% in California by 2012, then we should gear the United States for no less than 20% by 2020. In fact, as a stretch goal, we should try to shoot for 20% solar and 20% wind power production by 2020. Now that would be something worthy of true leadership in the nation!
I called your office between the Christmas and New Year's holidays to see if you'd like some volunteer assistance, either in policy research, outreach, web technology or other assistance. I'll call back to the California office again in this coming week.
I've also updated my Blog, petercorless.blogspot.com, with the recent update from your office.
Note: One link listed in your email to your plan is wrong, " http://eshoo.house.gov/enews/esa.pdf" is a broken link. (The "enews" directory should have been "enviro" instead.)
I actually found the report here: http://eshoo.house.gov/enviro/esa.pdf.
Let me know if I can be of further service to the community and the nation. Onwards to adventure!