In light of the news that Congress plans to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complete its permit application review for nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, it is time to re-examine Barack Obama’s nuclear cash — from the fine folks at the Exelon Corporation, that is.
The Obama administration, by the way, has not only consistently opposed the Yucca Mountain project and stopped the review but also, in the administration’s so-called 2010 budget, zeroed out the funds for the storage facility.
By February 2012, Obama had already gleaned $40,625 in Exelon cash.
Lefty Amy Goodman reported the following month:
- In the past four years, Exelon employees have contributed more than $244,000 to the Obama campaign – and that is not counting any soft-money contributions to PACs, or direct, corporate contributions to the new Super Pacs. Lamented by many for breaking key campaign promises (like closing Guantánamo, or accepting Super Pac money), President Obama is fulfilling his promise to push nuclear power.
What Goodman failed to mention is the Exelon Corporation PAC with its current $1,068,111 in receipts.
A reward, perchance? In March 2011, Bloomberg reported:
- Obama’s 2012 budget calls for an additional $36 billion in U.S. loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.
“The administration’s energy priorities are based solely on how best to build a 21st century, clean energy economy,” White House spokesman Clark Stevens said yesterday in a statement. “That policy is not about picking one energy source over another.”
The existing 104 reactors in the U.S. provide about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. Those in Illinois provide about half the state’s power.
But what good will loan guarantees be for new nuclear facilities when the question of where to store the nuclear waste — specifically regarding Yucca Mountain — is unresolved?
Yucca Mountain was originally scheduled to open in 1998, “but opposition has prevented the project from going forward and its fate is unclear.”
A decade later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 2008 Democratic candidates Obama and Hillary Clinton still opposed it.
Obama’s crony capitalist “green” water carriers
Goodman also overlooked Exelon’s connection to cap and trade efforts by the Obama administration.
This past April, the Green Mountain Scribes blog reported on “shareholder activists” at the National Center for Public Policy Research who “challenged corporate executives with the energy giant Exelon about their firm’s participation in so-called ‘crony capitalism’ at Exelon’s shareholder meeting [that] week in Chicago.”
- Incoming Exelon Chairman Mayo A. Shattuck III and President Christopher Crane were asked a series of questions about Exelon lobbying for President Obama’s energy agenda while the firm received a $200 million grant from the Administration by Dr. Tom Borelli, director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, and by Deneen Borelli, full-time fellow of the National Center-sponsored black leadership group Project 21.
Under just-retired (March 12) CEO John Rowe, Exelon played a key role in advancing President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy policy by participating in the United States Climate Action Partnership, a lobbying coalition of corporations and radical environmental special interest groups that sought federal legislation to mandate reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
Other members of the partnership?
- “Many corporate members of the United States Climate Action Partnership, including General Electric, Duke Energy, NextEra Energy, Exelon, and Honeywell all received economic stimulus funds,” said Dr. Borelli. “Pushing Obama’s agenda seems to have financial rewards. The coordinated effort between big government and big business threatens our free enterprise system. Policy issues should be settled in the public’s best interest, not as the result of back room deals.”
“Exelon also has received a $646 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy,” the Green Mountain Scribes continued:
- “The series of bankruptcies in the renewal energy arena proves the need for private watchdogs such as our Free Enterprise Project and further Congressional investigations into the relationships between political donors and recipients of loans and grants financed by the taxpayers,” said Dr. Borelli. “Our Free Enterprise Project is monitoring numerous corporations with questionable relationships, yet we fear we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Continued serious investigations are definitely warranted.”
“When you look at it, all the biggest corporate lobbyists for President Obama’s energy agenda were recipients of major grants and loans,” Dr. Borelli continued. “Lightening keeps striking in the same places, or perhaps a better analogy is that a suspiciously small number of companies seem to continually win the lottery.”
Exelon, Obama’s Campaign Cash Machine
Exelon boasts the “largest nuclear fleet (17 reactors) in the United States and the third-largest commercial nuclear fleet in the world.”
In a May 2007 speech to nuclear energy executives, Exelon CEO John Rowe said “permanent disposal at Yucca Mountain or a similar facility remains ‘a long-term imperative’ for the industry, even while he acknowledged it would not happen soon.”
In a May 2007 Las Vegas ReviewJournal op-ed, Erin Neff wrote that Obama “will have a hard time answering questions about the Yucca Mountain Project this year in the run-up to Nevada’s early 2008 caucus.”
A few months prior, speaking at a March 2007 health care forum in Las Vegas, Obama told the Associated Press “he opposed the repository and would look to regional storage as a solution.”
- Surely that could not have meant keeping the stuff in Illinois, where much of the nation’s commercial nuclear waste is generated.
On June 30, 2006, Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote a letter to Sen. Pete Domenici, D-N.M., who at the time chaired a key energy subcommittee.
“Senator Obama and I want to make it clear to the chairman that any plan to create regional nuclear waste sites without any local veto power is unacceptable,” Durbin said at the time. “Illinois must not become a dumping ground — even a temporary one — for nuclear waste brought in from other states.”
Of course, that’s what the junior senator from Illinois is supposed to do. Illinois has 11 nuclear power plants, which generate 48 percent of the state’s power. But what should Nevadans think now as Obama runs a national campaign? If he still supports regional storage, might not Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, be acceptable as a “temporary” site?
Well, those “11 nuclear power plants” in Illinois belong to whom? Exelon!
Think back to early February 2008 when Mike McIntire at the New York Times informed us about the undisclosed 2006 radioactive leaks at one of the Exelon’s nuclear plants, and the fact that freshman Illinois state senator, Barack Obama, “took up their cause”?
Recall that Obama boasted on the campain trail, particularly in December 2007 while in Iowa, that he had “scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks,” saying “it was ‘the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed’”?
Also remember that McIntire explained that this, as with many other things, Obama was not quite truthful:
- A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.
Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee. But, contrary to Mr. Obama’s comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.
McIntire also reported:
- Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.
Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon’s support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate.
In addition, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon. A spokeswoman for Exelon said Mr. Axelrod’s company had helped an Exelon subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, with communications strategy periodically since 2002, but had no involvement in the leak controversy or other nuclear issues.
To this list of influentials add former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, “who left the administration to successfully run for mayor of Chicago, [and who] worked on the $8.2 billion merger that created Exelon in 2000.”
In July 2007, Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank wrote in the Dissident Voice:
- To be sure small online donations have propelled the young senator to the top, but so too have his connections to big industry. The Obama campaign, as of late March 2007, has accepted $159,800 from executives and employees of Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power plant operator.
The Illinois-based company also helped Obama’s 2004 senatorial campaign. As Ken Silverstein reported in the November 2006 issue of Harper’s, ‘[Exelon] is Obama’s fourth largest patron, having donated a total of $74,350 to his campaigns.
In her May 2007 Las Vegas ReviewJournal op-ed, Erin Neff added:
- Exelon executives and employees have given $161,000 to Obama’s presidential bid. He’s received an additional $86,000 since 1998 from Exelon’s political action committee, employees and predecessor, Commonwealth Edison. Obama got money from the company in his 1998 bid for the Illinois state Senate and for his failed 2000 congressional campaign. Exelon also donated to Obama’s PAC and his successful 2004 U.S. Senate bid.
Now, as stated above, the Exelon Corporation PAC has $1,068,111 in its coffer.
What’s it say on the price tag for Yucca Mountain?