How to Lobby Congress With a Hammer
Over 100 people, few if any of them employed by the corporate media, filled a press conference room in the US Capitol on Monday to hear artists, advocates, and experts speak against the current energy bill and against a proposal to dump the nation's nuclear waste on the land of a native American tribe in Utah.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich opened the proceedings, welcomed the speakers, and began by denouncing the activities of the Private Fuel Storage Limited Liability Consortium (PFS), which has proposed this latest "solution" to the problem of nuclear waste. Did you know these matters were being handled by a private organization AND that it conveniently has LIMITED liability?
Kucinich spoke also of this country's long history of abusing the rights of native Americans and urged those listening to move beyond that history.
Navin Nayak of the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) spoke next and MC'd the event. "The U.S. Congress," he said, "stands on the precipice of passing an energy bill that would reproduce the mistakes of the past 50 years." From 1950 to 1997, he said, the federal government has spent $500 billion subsidizing fossil fuels and nuclear power, but only $25 billion on renewables.
The energy bill now under consideration would give billions to nuclear energy and subsidize the building of new plants, something we haven't done for 30 years, Nayak said.
The first speaker Nayak introduced set a tone of serious dedication and sacrifice. He was actor and activist James Cromwell, and he said that if anyone tries to move 44 thousand metric tons of nuclear waste across the country, "It's going to be blocked, the same way it was in Germany. But in this country, to stand in front of those trains, as I will be doing, is a violation of the PATRIOT Act and it is an act of terrorism and punishable by life in prison."
Cromwell seemed confident that others, young and old, would stand with him in front of the trains. He said that young people would not allow the country's future to be put at risk by nuclear waste. "It's our children and our children's children who will be affected by this technology, and it is up to us to stop it. I hope you will join us."
Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls spoke next. She said that the Indigo Girls have been a part of a campaign called Honor the Earth, and have worked on this issue with Winona LaDuke since 1992. Back then, she said, they opposed a bill that they called "Mobile Chernobyl," which would have transported the waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
"When that took too long to work out," she said, "they created this limited liability consortium (PFS) so as not to have the liability that they should ... No one wants the nuclear waste, and we're targeting minority communities with it. We need to stop producing it."
Ray advocated wind turbines as a safe and profitable project for native Americans and others. "We oppose this energy bill," she said, "because of the subsidies to nuclear companies in it."
Nayak again spoke briefly and provided some more stats. Despite a lack of investment, he said, renewables and co-generation now produce 92 percent as much energy as nuclear, on a global basis. The US Department of Energy says that the US could get 400 percent of its electricity from renewables, in comparison to the 2.5 percent that we actually get.