2002 Scorecard Vote
Garbage incineration is one of our nation's costliest and most dangerous means of generating energy, releasing large quantities of such toxic chemicals as lead and dioxin into the atmosphere. In addition, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, garbage incinerators in 2000 emitted 2.2 tons of mercury--nearly 20 percent of the nation's mercury emissions--polluting groundwater and surface water, contaminating fish populations, and significantly raising the risk of neurological damage and birth defects in humans.
The Senate energy bill (S. 517) contained a provision requiring the largest investor-owned electric utilities to generate at least ten percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Recognizing this provision's potential economic boon, advocates for the garbage incineration industry argued that incinerators should be defined as a renewable energy source. Conservationists countered that such a definition would impede our nation's progress toward clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
During Senate debate over the energy bill (S. 517), Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) introduced an amendment to make clear that garbage incineration is not a renewable energy source. In response, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) introduced an amendment that would have specifically included incineration as a renewable energy source. Senator Graham later withdrew his amendment, but on April 24, 2002, Senator Bingaman moved to table the Fitzgerald amendment. The Senate approved the motion by a 50-46 vote (Senate roll call vote 84). The pro-environment vote was NO. The vote left the Senate energy bill with no clear definition of renewable energy sources. At press time the House and Senate conference on the energy package had not produced a final bill.