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Energy Bill 'Good Idea,' Udall Says

By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
    WASHINGTON— Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Wednesday he supports a massive energy bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to bring to a vote today, in part because he crafted a key provision in the legislation.
    Udall's proposal— a mandate that would force utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their power from clean energy sources such as wind and solar by 2020— was passed by the House in August but was not sent to the Senate. The Senate had earlier rejected a similar plan.
    Pelosi has included the utility mandate in the energy bill, as well as enhanced fuel-efficiency standards for cars sold in the United States and a repeal of some tax breaks for U.S. oil and gas companies.
    On Monday, Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said they opposed Pelosi's decision to package the tax repeals and the utility mandate with the broader energy bill because it could doom the entire bill in the Senate. Bingaman, however, supports the utility mandate and rescinding the oil and gas tax breaks.
    Udall said packaging all of the provisions together was smart.
    "It's a very good idea to put it all together because all three of these ideas are great ideas for moving us in a new direction on energy," Udall said in an interview. "We need every one of these parts."
    Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., condemned the bill produced by Pelosi, characterizing it as "born in a back room behind locked doors and without debate." He said the measure would drive up energy prices and stymie efforts to produce more renewable fuels.
    The bill was only made available late Wednesday, and Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said she had not had a chance to review it.
    Senate Republicans, including Domenici, have said the utility mandate is unfair to southern states because they don't generate a lot of wind and would be forced to pay millions of dollars for clean energy credits from other states. Udall maintained that New Mexico, a major wind producer, could be among the states to help southern states meet that demand.
    Domenici, in an interview Monday, said the so-called "clean energy" or "renewable portfolio" standard could torpedo the bill in the Senate. The Senate killed a similar proposal, supported by Bingaman, earlier this year.
    Udall said he hopes the Senate takes a different view now.
    "I'm just very optimistic that when they see the full package they will realize it's good for America," Udall said.