Shaheen-Portman Energy Legislation Update

Tue, 2013-09-24 09:53

As expected, the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill went to the Senate floor last week and, within hours, it appeared that political polarity would threaten to kill it. When the Senate adjourned at the end of last week, there was no deal finalized for the energy efficiency bill to move forward.

Facing the First Challenges

Unplugged ManMajority Leader Harry Reid said that he considered it a “totally wasted week,” expressing frustration over the partisan bickering. Reid has instructed his staff to continue to collaborate to move the legislation forward. Because this is the first energy bill to come to the floor since 2007, there is a pent-up demand among senators that is expected to yield a high number of amendments, as various energy initiatives are tacked on. Some of the initiatives, such as those related to the Keystone XL pipeline, are so controversial they could potentially derail the bill entirely. In an attempt to limit distraction caused by side issues expected to bog the bill down, Reid has said that only amendments related to energy will be considered.

Amendments – Boost or Bust?

Although it’s not clear yet which amendments will come up for vote, several amendments have already been promoted on the floor. While some only hold promise of more delays, others show continued bipartisan efforts to build upon the underlying goals of the Shaheen-Portman bill.

  • Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) co-sponsored an amendment to expand energy efficiency in schools.
  • Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) put forth an amendment that would require federal employees to turn off lights and unplug other devices when not in the office to avoid wasting stand-by power from electronics.
  • Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) filed two amendments; one aimed at challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) carbon emissions rules for power plants and the other to prevent federal agencies from using the “social cost of carbon” metric to tally estimated benefits from avoided emissions. 
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.) both introduced amendments related to Obamacare.
  • Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study standards that could potentially save energy wasted by standby-by or “vampire” power.
  • Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced two amendments related to green building certification, and it is not yet clear how those amendments could impact the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Moving Forward

Now we hurry up and wait for Senate to re-convene and take up the energy bill issue once more. To sum up the work that stretches before them on The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he looks forward to working with senators and bill managers “to help American businesses and consumers play an active role in reducing our nation’s energy consumption. Because, while some of the answers to America’s energy dilemmas will come from inventors and researchers, others must begin in the places we live and work.”

Let’s hope that the important goals of the bill such as boosting building codes, training workers in building technologies, helping manufacturers to become more efficient, and improving conservation within federal agencies don’t get lost in the political mayhem.

By Amy Malloy