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GLIN==> Northeast-Midwest Weekly Update -- 31 January 2000

      Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition members last week launched
several initiatives to address the recent and dramatic flare-up in
fuel prices.

      Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Olympia Snowe
(R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) on January 25
sent a letter to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson urging an emergency
meeting with major oil companies and refiners in order to seek an
increase in refining utilization that would provide additional
supplies of home heating oil.

      On January 27, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Charles Schumer
(D-NY), Jeffords, and Leahy asked President Clinton for the immediate
release of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in
order to increase domestic oil supplies and bring down fuel costs.
The United States's SPR contains 568.1 million barrels of oil, enough
to meet domestic energy demands for 58 days.

      Energy Secretary Richardson on January 27 met with northeastern
senators to discuss the current fuel price situation.  He listed five
actions the administration is taking to ease the crisis:  1)
releasing $45 million in emergency LIHEAP funding; 2) requesting $154
million for weatherization assistance in the fiscal 2001 budget; 3)
renegotiating delivery contracts for 5 million barrels of oil to the
SPR's royalty-in-kind program; 4) meeting with several OPEC countries
to discuss the current situation; and 5) arranging a February summit in
Boston with home heating oil refiners in order to discuss solutions.

      In addition to addressing the current fuel price emergency,
Senators Schumer, Collins, and Jeffords are evaluating long-term
policies to ensure that this situation is not repeated.  The Oil Price
Safeguard Act (S. 1951) would allow the Secretary of Energy to release
SPR oil if prices rose significantly as a result of "anti-competitive"
activity by foreign producers.  This legislation would add global
supply manipulations to the list of SPR-authorized release

      CONTACT:  Cameron Taylor, Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition

      In response to letters from the Northeast-Midwest Senate and
Congressional Coalitions, the administration last week released $45
million of emergency spending from the Low Income Home Energy
Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The funding distribution will be:
Alaska, $2.5 million; Connecticut, $3.1 million; Delaware, $947,000;
Maine, $10.3 million; Massachusetts, $10.1 million; New Hampshire,
$5.4 million; New Jersey, $3.0 million; New York, $2.6 million;
Pennsylvania, $2.5 million; Rhode Island, $2.6 million; Vermont, $1.9

      Members of the Northeast-Midwest Senate and House Coalitions last
week asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a new study
that would evaluate the environmental link to sprawl.  Senators Jim
Jeffords (R-VT) and Carl Levin (D-MI), co-chairs of the Senate Smart
Growth Task Force, and Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Marty Meehan
(D-MA), co-chairs of the House Sustainable Development Caucus,
expressed interest in identifying ways in which the federal government
can assist states and localities address growth management issues.
The lawmakers asked GAO to pay particular attention to how prevailing
patterns of development and growth affect water and air quality.

      CONTACTS:  Cameron Taylor, Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition
(224-0606) and Tim Daniels, Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition

      Reps. Bob Franks (R-NJ) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), co-chairs of the
Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, last week asked Energy
Secretary Richardson to investigate why the Bonneville Power
Administration (BPA) is spending millions of dollars to subsidize
fiber optic service in the Pacific Northwest.  BPA already has spent
approximately $130 million to install about 2,000 miles of fiber optic
cable, and some BPA officials are proposing much larger expenditures.
The federal agency, originally designed to provide electricity to
poor, rural areas, seems to be venturing into the commercial
telecommunications business.

      Such expenditures, say the lawmakers, raise several concerns.
First, BPA has launched this telecommunications venture with no
congressional authorization.  Second, BPA seems to be competing with
the well-established, private-sector telecommunications industry.
Third, BPA is justifying its investment as a means to attract
businesses and economic development to the Pacific Northwest  but
this is being done at the expense of taxpayers in other regions across
the country.

      CONTACT:  Dick Munson at the Northeast-Midwest Institute (544-

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