Energy Bill Heads to Senate With Teamsters Endorsement

A comprehensive energy bill that is on its way to the Senate after approval by the House of Representatives early August 2 received positive response from a variety of factions, including the Brotherhood of Teamsters. Others were not as pleased.

The proposal would allow oil and gas exploration in a limited portion of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that is currently closed to such activity. The House approved the bill by a vote of 240-149.

"This is a major victory for the millions of workers whose occupations depend upon energy, and for all Americans who care about reducing our dependence on foreign oil," said James Hoffa, Teamsters general president.

Rep Billy Tauzin (R-LA), House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, voiced support of the action. "Today’s vote moves America a giant step closer to a comprehensive, long-term energy policy that improves the security, reliability, and affordability of our nation’s energy supply," he said.

Those opposing the bill criticized its passage and decried the ANWR exploration provisions. Reps Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Edward Markey (D-MA) tried to amend the House energy bill to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling.

"This vote will send a powerful message about our nation’s priorities and whether we believe that unbridled industrialization is more important than protecting one of the last pristine wildlife refuges in the world," Johnson said earlier in the week.

Johnson's concerns failed to persuade enough representatives to support her proposal, particularly after a lobbying campaign at all levels by the Teamsters. Union members contacted congressional representatives, held rallies, and wrote letters to the editor in an effort to pass the legislation, according to Teamster information.

House members supporting the bill included Rep Ralph Hall (D-TX). He handled the energy-related research and development provisions of the energy bill during House debate, according to information from his office.

"This legislation provides a long-overdue, comprehensive approach to solving our nation’s energy needs and putting us on course for less dependence on foreign oil," Hall said. "This national energy policy includes conservation measures, production, research and tax incentives, and it recognizes the importance of all energy resources, including fossil fuels, geothermal, nuclear, hydro, clean coal, solar, wind, biomass and alternative sources."

The Sierra Club, a major critic of the policy, voiced its opposition to the ANWR exploration proposals and placed its hopes in the upcoming Senate debate. "While we are profoundly disappointed that the House turned its back on the pristine Arctic Refuge and the will of the American people, we are optimistic as the fight heads to the Senate," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive.

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