State Journal-Register

November 21, 2003

Fitzgerald says he will vote for energy bill


WASHINGTON - Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., said Thursday he will support a massive energy bill because its ethanol provisions would help Illinois farmers.

"While there are provisions that I'm not crazy about in the bill, it is on balance a good bill for Illinois, especially with respect to renewable fuels such as ethanol and soy diesel," Fitzgerald said in an interview. "It will be very good for the farmers in Illinois."

The Senate could vote as early as today. The vote is expected to be close.

Earlier this week, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he would vote against the bill because it would limit the ability of communities that have found MTBE in their drinking water to seek damages from its manufacturers. Durbin said 23 communities in Illinois, including Rushville, have traces of MTBE, a gasoline additive, in drinking water.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials oppose the MTBE provision, saying it would eliminate one of their enforcement tools.

Fitzgerald also dislikes the liability protections the bill would give to producers of MTBE, but he said he opposes the provision for more philosophical reasons.

"I'm more inclined to agree that we have a lot of abusive lawsuits in this country and they need to be curbed. But I don't think it's a good idea to give any one industry a blanket immunity from the consequences of their own negligence," Fitzgerald said.

He also complained about the lack of time to study provisions of the 1,200-page bill. The bill, which was negotiated largely in secret by a handful of lawmakers, was released early Tuesday. It was passed by the House, 246-180, the same day.