2003 Scorecard Vote
President Bush's national energy plan, released in May 2001, was strongly criticized by environmentalists for encouraging environmentally destructive practices while doing little to provide Americans with clean, efficient sources of energy. Although the House passed a bill based on his plan in 2001, the Senate passed a slightly better energy bill in 2002 and the two bodies failed to reach agreement on a final bill before the 107th Congress adjourned. Early in 2003, the House again passed a bill based on the president's plan (House vote 1). The House bill, H.R. 6, was laden with more than $37 billion in corporate tax breaks and subsidies for the coal, oil, nuclear and natural gas industries. At the same time, it sought to weaken vitally important laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. The bill would also have given the Interior Secretary authority to exempt oil companies from paying for drilling rights on public lands and included a provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House bill also largely failed to advance clean, efficient energy technologies that would enhance our national energy security and failed to increase automobile fuel efficiency standards.
The Senate began consideration of a substantially similar bill in the spring of 2003; however, by July it was clear that the bill's sponsors lacked the votes to pass their bill. In a deal struck by Republican and Democratic leaders just prior to the August Congressional recess, the Senate instead passed the bill that had previously passed the Senate in 2002. The House-Senate energy conference convened early in the fall of 2003 and quickly abandoned the Senate's bill in a process that essentially excluded both House and Senate Democratic leaders. The result of this one-sided process was an energy conference report that environmentalists argued included the worst provisions of both bills but also included a provision that had not passed either the House or Senate that would give polluted urban areas more time to meet Clean Air Act targets without having to implement stronger air pollution controls, placing a significant burden on states and communities downwind of those areas. In addition the conference report undermined clean water protections by shielding makers of the gasoline additive MTBE from existing lawsuits for contaminating drinking water in 1,500 communities in 28 states, and exempting oil and gas construction activities--including roads, drill pads, pipeline corridors, refineries, and compressor stations--from having to control polluted stormwater runoff under the Clean Water Act.
The House quickly passed the conference report; however, during Senate floor consideration of the energy bill conference report, the bill's opponents mounted a bipartisan filibuster to block its progress. The conference report's supporters then moved to invoke cloture, which would have effectively ended debate and brought the bill up for a vote. On November 21, 2003, the Senate voted 57-40 to reject the cloture motion--three votes short of the number needed to break the filibuster (Senate roll call vote 456). NO is the pro-environment vote. LCV considers the energy conference report to be among the most anti-environment pieces of legislation in recent history and has chosen to score this vote twice to reflect the significance of this issue. The energy conference report was removed from Senate floor consideration without a final vote, but supporters have vowed to push for final passage early in 2004.