SHAHEEN, SENATORS WORK TO PROTECT CONSUMERS FROM SPIKE IN GAS PRICES

Call on Republican leaders to abandon plans to gut oil speculation watchdog

March 22, 2011

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) joined 48 Senators today in a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House John Boehner urging them to abandon a proposal that would cut funding for the agency charged with reining in excessive speculation in U.S. energy markets, which can drive up oil prices.  The House Republican spending bill, H.R. 1, would reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third, forcing layoffs to the watchdog agency that polices market manipulation.

“With American families and businesses still finding their footing in the wake of the financial crisis, we cannot let speculation on Wall Street turn into inflated energy costs on Main Street,” Shaheen said.  “Reducing funding for the agency designed to protect U.S. consumers from excessive energy speculation is simply unwise.”

Shaheen, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has been active both in trying to protect the CFTC from proposed cuts and urging the agency to protect consumers from excessive speculation in U.S. energy markets.  On March 10, Shaheen sent a letter to the CFTC asking for an assessment of speculation’s role in recent energy price spikes and the potential effects of proposed cuts to the agency in the House Republican spending bill.  In a January letter to the agency, Shaheen asked it to move quickly to establish hard limits on speculation in energy commodities, as required by the 2010 Wall Street Reform bill.

In today’s letter, the Senators also note that H.R. 1 would cut billions from development of alternative fuels and clean energy technology, setting back efforts to stay competitive with growing nations such as China while simultaneously putting America’s independence from foreign oil even further out of reach.  The Senators urged McConnell and Boehner to work with Democrats to negotiate a responsible budget that makes smart cuts that don’t undermine our transition to a safe, clean, and affordable energy future.

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below.

Dear Minority Leader McConnell:

As we work toward a long-term budget compromise to keep the government running through this year, we urge you to abandon the reckless energy proposals in the House-passed Continuing Resolution (H.R 1) that will condemn our country to continued reliance on foreign oil and allow market manipulation that could lead to gas prices rising unchecked.

As you know, H.R. 1 would reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third.  The CFTC serves as an important “cop on the beat,” working to protect American consumers by cracking down on manipulation and other market abuses that can drive up oil prices.  Yet your spending plan would shrink the CFTC budget back to 2008 levels, when Americans were blindsided by both record high gas prices and a financial crisis that cost us millions of jobs. According to CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler, these cuts would cause “significant curtailment of staff and resources.”  At a time where gas prices are rising and squeezing American families, we have a responsibility to provide our watchdogs the resources they need to fulfill their important oversight and regulatory responsibilities.

We find it equally troubling that your preferred budget would cut billions of dollars in investments in critical programs focused on developing new alternative fuels and clean energy technologies, undermining our competitiveness and increasing our trade deficit with oil producing nations.  We urge you to reverse these policies that will only set our nation backward, and put America’s independence from foreign oil even further out of reach.

We stand ready to work with you to come to a responsible budget compromise that will not do anything to make our gas price problem worse, or undermine the progress we are making in developing the clean energy technologies we need so we can better compete with countries like China.  Together, we can craft a sensible fiscal policy that invests in what we need to grow and cuts what doesn’t, without undermining our mission to transition to a safe, clean and affordable energy future.

Sincerely,

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Dick Durbin

Senator Chuck Schumer

Senator Patty Murray     

Senator Debbie Stabenow   

Senator Kent Conrad                

Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Bill Nelson                

Senator Max Baucus

Senator Barbara Mikulski

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Senator Jeff Merkley

Senator Mark Begich

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Senator Mark Pryor

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Senator Mark Udall

Senator Kay Hagan

Senator Ben Cardin

Senator Al Franken

Senator Barbara Boxer

Senator Frank Lautenberg

Senator Jack Reed

Senator Carl Levin

Senator Mark Warner

Senator Tom Carper

Senator Daniel Akaka

Senator Tom Harkin

Senator Bob Menendez

Senator Ron Wyden

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Chris Coons

Senator Michael Bennet

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Jon Tester

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Senator Bob Casey

Senator John Kerry

Senator Jay Rockefeller

Senator Jeff Bingaman

Senator Daniel Inouye

Senator Joe Lieberman

Senator Bernie Sanders

Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Herb Kohl

Senator Tim Johnson

Senator Tom Udall

Cc: Speaker John Boehner

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