Senate Duo Debuts ‘New and Improved’ Energy-Efficiency Bill

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27: NARAL Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) speaks at a luncheon to mark the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. The lunch, hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, was held to celebrate the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Feb. 27, 2014, 6:28 a.m.

Amid un­cer­tainty over wheth­er en­ergy-sav­ings le­gis­la­tion can pass in a par­tis­an polit­ic­al cli­mate, a bi­par­tis­an Sen­ate duo on Thursday rolled out what they’re call­ing a new and im­proved en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill.

The le­gis­la­tion, sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Port­man, R-Ohio, is a re­vised ver­sion of a bill that came be­fore the full Sen­ate in Septem­ber, when it quickly be­came mired in de­bate over un­re­lated is­sues, in­clud­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act and the Key­stone XL pipeline. The le­gis­la­tion is aimed at boost­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in com­mer­cial and res­id­en­tial prop­er­ties and fed­er­ally-owned build­ings. 

Back­ers are con­fid­ent this ver­sion can pass. Bill spon­sors tacked on 10 new bi­par­tis­an amend­ments in a bid to win the 60 votes needed to end de­bate in the up­per cham­ber when the meas­ure is brought back to the floor. The pro­vi­sions range from in­cent­ives for en­ergy-sav­ings ret­ro­fits in schools and low-in­come hous­ing pro­jects to a pro­gram that boosts en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in com­mer­cial prop­er­ties. The le­gis­la­tion also picked up a num­ber of ad­di­tion­al spon­sors, in­clud­ing Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans John Ho­even of North Dakota and Johnny Isak­son of Geor­gia. Mod­er­ate Demo­crats such as Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana and Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia have also ad­ded their names in sup­port of the bill. 

Ac­cord­ing to es­tim­ates by the Amer­ic­an Coun­cil for an En­ergy-Ef­fi­cient Eco­nomy, a non­profit or­gan­iz­a­tion ded­ic­ated to pro­mot­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, the bill would save $16.2 bil­lion an­nu­ally and keep 95 mil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon emis­sions from es­cap­ing in­to the at­mo­sphere by 2030.

Des­pite for­ward mo­mentum cre­ated by the bill’s re­in­tro­duc­tion, however, se­cur­ing pas­sage won’t be an easy task.

Sen­ate lead­ers on both sides of the aisle have made no in­dic­a­tion that the bill will be brought to the floor in short or­der. Lead­er­ship aides did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a re­quest for com­ment.

“We can’t pre­dict what lead­er­ship will do,” said Liz Tate, dir­ect­or for gov­ern­ment re­la­tions at the Al­li­ance to Save En­ergy, a co­ali­tion of pub­lic and private groups pro­mot­ing en­ergy pro­ductiv­ity through pub­lic policy.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id may lack the ap­pet­ite to put polit­ic­al muscle be­hind the bill, in part be­cause the memory of what happened last time re­mains fresh in his mind. 

“We’re all very fa­mil­i­ar with what happened in Septem­ber with non-ger­mane is­sues,” Tate said. “[That’s why] we will be en­cour­aging lead­er­ship to come to an agree­ment about amend­ments that stick to ger­mane is­sues and move this im­port­ant bill for­ward.”

In an iron­ic twist of fate, bi­par­tis­an back­ing could even work against the bill. Head­ing in­to the midterm elec­tions, both Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship could be hes­it­ant to hand the op­pos­ing party a win — even if it meant they could claim vic­tory as well.

For now, House lead­er­ship is poised to make the first move to ad­vance en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. The lower cham­ber is ex­pec­ted to vote next week on an en­ergy con­ser­va­tion bill sponsored by Reps. Dav­id McKin­ley, R-W.Va., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., that would fa­cil­it­ate co­oper­a­tion between land­lords and ten­ants to in­crease en­ergy sav­ings in com­mer­cial build­ings.

“I’m op­tim­ist­ic that this will pass,” Welch said in an in­ter­view, re­fer­ring to the bill that has been dubbed “Ten­ant Star.” He ad­ded: “This is an op­por­tun­ity for Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans to reach across the aisle and do something to­geth­er.”

It re­mains to be seen if pas­sage of an en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency meas­ure in the House will act as a prod to the up­per cham­ber.

“Next week we’ll see how things go in the House and we’ll be look­ing to see when this [Shaheen-Port­man] comes to the Sen­ate floor,” Tate said. “It won’t be this week or next week, but we are hope­ful it will come for­ward soon.”

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