Energy bill can help #045; maybe

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2003

The massive bill on energy policy that is nearing final congressional passage this week is a hodgepodge of decent provisions and awful ones - but on two counts, Alabama comes out very well.

Each of Alabama’s senators can claim some credit for the triumphs. First, senior Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby insisted that the bill must delay, through at least the end of 2006, proposed rules for public utilities that could have the effect of substantially raising Alabama’s electricity prices.

The proposed rule would nationalize the power supply network under a single federal agency. It thus would, in essence, replace the state-regulated energy market whereby Alabama keeps its energy prices low.

Alabama has made deliberate policy choices encouraging abundant energy production, and its citizens should not be forced to pay higher prices in order to prop up states in the Northeast that are suffering from their own, less consumer-friendly decisions.

Largely because of Sen. Shelby’s efforts, Alabama will get at least three years of a respite from those unfair new rules.

Meanwhile, another portion of the bill will provide a total of $1 billion, spread over 10 years, to six coastal states, including Alabama, off whose shores oil drilling is allowed on federal leases. Called the Secure Energy Reinvestment Plan, this provision is modeled in many respects on an earlier bill that Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama helped craft along with Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu.

The idea is to repay each state for some of the burdens which drilling places on the environment in those states. The money will be directed to the states’ funds for land and water conservation or for historic preservation.

The earlier bill by Sens. Landrieu and Sessions, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, would have provided a good deal more money than this one does. But this is a good start, and Alabama should be happy for any help it can get.

Mobile Register, Nov. 20, 2003