About the Event
A Congressional Perspective on Energy and Environment Policy
Policy Leadership Forum w/ Rep. Mark Udall
September 8, 2004
Mark Udall, elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, grew up committed to public service and environmental protection as a part of his family legacy. He has deep roots in the American West: his grandfather was the first outfitter in Rocky Mountain National Park, and his father and uncle are credited with doubling the size of U.S. national parks. An outdoor educator and avid mountain climber, Udall has spent more than 20 years working for the Colorado Outward Bound School. Before entering Congress, he was a Colorado state representative, where his voting record earned him the "Green Sense Award" from a coalition of state environmental organizations.
Udall has initiated efforts to preserve wilderness and open spaces, to expand roadless areas in national forests, and to control overdevelopment and sprawl. He has championed legislation that provides tax credits for renewable energy and is working to secure funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, composed of monies from offshore oil and gas royalties, to use for their original purpose of land acquisition.
Udall serves on the House Resources, Science, and Small Business Committees and on the Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards as well as the Subcommittee on Space. He is co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus.
Introduction: Paul Portney
Rep. Mark Udall Says “Hyperpartisanship” to Blame
for Failure to Pass Energy Bill
Congress’s ongoing struggle to pass a comprehensive energy bill is caused, in no small part, by “hyperpartisanship,” said Rep. Mark Udall, (D-CO), who spoke at an RFF Policy Leadership Forum in early September.
Both sides are deadlocked over the bill because of numerous amendments over controversial issues like opening up the Artic National Wildlife Reserve for drilling. If this provision alone were taken off the table, Udall suggested, many more Democrats would work for the bill’s passage.
While critical of the Bush administration’s activism on the bill, Udall said, “We all share some of the blame.” The process of bringing the bill to fruition, which has gone on for many years, has been encumbered by constant shifts in political priorities. “Not everyone has been at the table and fully involved,” he said, and that has prompted many legislators and special interest groups, Democrat and Republican, to introduce language to meet their needs.
Udall said he was deeply disappointed by the fact that the current version of the bill fails to address two key problems: the reliability of the nation’s power generation grid, despite last summer’s widespread blackout; and extension of the renewable energy production tax credit, which is now buried in ongoing tax reform proposals. Utilities need more time and predictability as they move toward greater use of renewable sources, he said.
While the administration and Congress are at a standoff over energy policy, the states are forging ahead anyway, Udall said. Sixteen states have passed renewable energy portfolio standards, requiring utilities to generate 10 percent of the power from renewable sources. And Colorado may become number 17, said Udall proudly. A state ballot initiative, which he helped drive with support from the Republican state treasurer, has a good chance of passage this fall, he said.
We told the voters that it would bring economic development in rural communities, help diversify our energy sources, and bring new jobs to Colorado, "ones that would be tough to send offshore,” Udall said. We want to see if Colorado can become the "Saudi Arabia" of wind and solar power generation, he joked.
Udall’s commitment to making renewable energy a much greater priority extends back to Congress, where he serves as the co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, which has 224 members spread across the political and geographical landscape. He is also a member of the House Resources, Science, and Small Business Committees and the Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards as well as the Subcommittee on Space.