Open Letter from Conservatives for Balanced Electricity Reform

Published October 1, 2004

Editor’s note: Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) has suggested imposing a new tax on the nuclear power industry to fund an alleged budget shortfall for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Over the past 20 years, the industry has already paid more than $23 billion to the federal Nuclear Waste Fund for disposal of nuclear waste. The following letter, which urges that monies in the Nuclear Waste Fund be set aside for the Yucca Mountain project, is being circulated for signature by Conservatives for Balanced Electricity Reform.

September 2004

The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20010

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We are writing to thank you for your longstanding support for the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain Project and to encourage you to work to fully fund the program for FY 2005 without raising taxes on utility customers across the country.

According to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, if the project is not funded at adequate levels, there will be an approximate 70% reduction-in-force and an estimated 2,400 lost jobs. A shutdown of the program would result in an enormous challenge of replacing federal and contract workers and would cause an indefinite delay in meeting DOE’s 2010 target for opening the repository.

The Senate’s proposed legislation to impose fees on nuclear power industry customers is not the solution to this budget dilemma. Imposing a half-a-billion dollar tax hike on this important industry and forcing them to pay for a government mishandling of the budget is not the way we, as conservatives, believe a Republican-controlled Congress should proceed.

If the industry is forced to pay these enormous new taxes, the financial impact passed on to consumers will be devastating, especially to low-income citizens and seniors on fixed incomes. This is simply a fiscal landmine that requires a creative and credible solution.

As you know, the industry and consumers of electricity from nuclear power plants have paid more than $23 billion to the U.S. government for disposal of used nuclear fuel in a permanent repository. The government has spent around $8 billion to date, leaving a balance of nearly $15 billion in the Nuclear Waste Fund.

Ratepayers and companies should not be subjected to an increase in the fees while a large surplus of funds exists in the Nuclear Waste Fund. Therefore, we overwhelmingly support the reclassification of the industry’s annual Nuclear Waste Fund Contributions to provide for funding of future year project expenses for Yucca Mountain. It puts to an end the need for the program funding to compete with unrelated programs in the budget process.

Ronald Reagan championed the free market and railed against government programs that over-regulated and imposed “surcharges” on business that make our economy thrive. We, like President Reagan, place pro-growth policies and lower tax philosophy at the center of the Republican agenda. We are surprised that some in Congress would propose tax increases on a specific industry as the solution to this budget problem.

We strongly support your efforts to fund the Yucca Mountain Project, but we will actively oppose any legislation that imposes a surcharge on the nuclear industry and will encourage other members of Congress to vote against such action.

611 Pennsylvania Avenue SE #314
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 547-8602
(202) 547-8632 fax

David Keene, Co-Chair * Stephen Merrill, National Chair * Grover Norquist, Co-Chair * Craig Shirley, Co-Chair