Revival Planned for Energy-Efficiency Bill

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., could be among the key votes as stakeholders seek to revive a stalled energy efficiency bill.
National Journal
Alex Brown
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Alex Brown
Oct. 24, 2013, 3:22 a.m.

Sen­ate lead­ers and in­dustry groups have a plan to re­vive the en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill that stalled in the up­per cham­ber last month amid a flurry of un­re­lated amend­ments.

The strategy, ac­cord­ing to Sen­ate aides and ad­voc­ates of the meas­ure, is to find the right mix of amend­ments to win mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans’ back­ing. All of the po­ten­tial amend­ments have bi­par­tis­an spon­sors, many of them red-state Demo­crats.

One en­ergy in­sider fa­mil­i­ar with talks between law­makers and in­dustry groups said “there is op­tim­ism” that sup­port will soon ex­ceed the 60-vote threshold needed to over­come ob­struc­tion from those who want to see checks on the Af­ford­able Care Act and oth­er un­re­lated pro­pos­als ad­ded to the le­gis­la­tion.

More than 100 amend­ments were at­tached to the bill the first time around; this time, the fo­cus will be on just a few, said Jim Paul­ey, a gov­ern­ment-re­la­tions ex­ec­ut­ive for Schneider Elec­tric, which backs the le­gis­la­tion. The amend­ments be­ing dis­cussed in­clude:

  • A pro­pos­al by Sens. Mi­chael Ben­net, D-Colo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to meas­ure en­ergy sav­ings by in­di­vidu­al ten­ants in mul­ti­use build­ings.
  • A meas­ure to en­hance thermal ef­fi­ciency, pro­posed by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Thomas Carp­er, D-Del.
  • A re­quire­ment ad­ded by Sens. Jeff Ses­sions, R-Ala., and Mark Pry­or, D-Ark., that would push the En­ergy De­part­ment to use third-party cer­ti­fic­a­tion pro­grams to veri­fy product rat­ings, rather than con­duct­ing sim­il­ar test­ing of its own.
  • An amend­ment to pro­tect cer­tain ma­ter­i­als from “dis­fa­vor” in Gen­er­al Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing cer­ti­fic­a­tions, pro­posed by Pry­or and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Ro­ger Wick­er, R-Miss.
  • Al­low­ance of grid-en­abled wa­ter heat­ers, along with ad­di­tion­al stand­ards, ad­ded by Pry­or and Sen. John Ho­even, R-N.D.
  • A pro­pos­al by Sens. Mark Ud­all, D-Colo., and James Risch, R-Idaho, to lower en­ergy con­sump­tion in fed­er­al data cen­ters.

A pair of oth­er po­ten­tial amend­ments are also un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, Paul­ey said. One, pro­posed by Ho­even and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would roll back a re­quire­ment that fed­er­al build­ings elim­in­ate fossil-fuel us­age by 2030, re­pla­cing it with ef­fi­ciency levels that don’t tar­get spe­cif­ic fuels. That may draw op­pos­i­tion from some of the more pro­gress­ive mem­bers of the Demo­crat­ic caucus, but it could also bring some Re­pub­lic­ans on board.

The oth­er would al­low loan agen­cies to factor home en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in­to mort­gage-writ­ing; it is backed by Ben­net and Sen. Johnny Isak­son, R-Ga. A Sen­ate aide with in­volve­ment in the le­gis­la­tion con­firmed those amend­ments are part of the ne­go­ti­ations.

“There’s been a ramped-up or in­creased pace of meet­ings this week in ex­plor­ing a bunch of dif­fer­ent ways to in­crease sup­port for Shaheen-Port­man, es­pe­cially among Re­pub­lic­ans,” ad­ded a Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate aide. “There have been dis­cus­sions about amend­ments be­ing one way to do that.” Still, the aide em­phas­ized that no single strategy has been set in stone.

An­oth­er Re­pub­lic­an aide echoed that be­hind-the-scenes work has been on­go­ing. “Port­man is work­ing to get bi­par­tis­an agree­ments to get to 60 votes,” said the staffer, singling out Ho­even as a po­ten­tial key vote. “Ho­even’s a guy that a lot of folks look to,” agreed an­oth­er Sen­ate staffer, adding that there are already at least 59 po­ten­tial yes votes for the bill.

All the aides agreed that hit­ting the 60-vote threshold would greatly in­crease the like­li­hood that Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., would move the bill. “If folks can make a case that there’s a lot of sup­port for this, then that makes it easi­er to bring it back to the floor,” said the Demo­crat­ic aide.

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