The U.S. Senate began debate Tuesday on the energy efficiency bill (S. 2262) sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH). While the Shaheen-Portman bill maintains broad bipartisan support, the most likely scenario is that it will fail to obtain the 60 votes needed to emerge from the Senate.
As the only energy-related bill likely to reach the Senate floor this year, members of both parties are hoping to use amendments to highlight other issues. As of Tuesday, the Shaheen-Portman bill included 10 new bipartisan amendments, all of which were added since it was brought to the floor last fall, only to go nowhere. Although the House passed energy efficiency legislation (HR 2126) that included some similar provisions earlier this year, Shaheen-Portman’s prospects remain uncertain, as discussion continues about which other issues will get a vote as amendments or stand-alone bills as a condition of the bill going forward in the Senate.
The hotly contested Keystone XL pipeline is one such issue. As of Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) insisted that there would be a stand-alone vote on a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline after a vote on Shaheen-Portman, regardless of the outcome. What would happen in a Keystone vote remains uncertain, with 57 senators announcing support as of Wednesday – three short of the 60 needed to force cloture. Sen. Reid has rejected requests to allow Republican amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, and has declined to allow votes on other energy issues, including expediting liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, preventing Congress from implementing a carbon tax, and blocking EPA carbon emissions standards for power plants. That said, even if a bill blocking EPA carbon emissions standards was allowed a Senate vote and secured passage, White House counselor John Podesta said Monday that it would be “headed to the watery depths” with a veto from President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, the White House released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, which detailed climate change impacts on every region of the country. With wide coverage in national and regional press, the national climate report will set the stage for EPA’s scheduled announcement of carbon emissions regulations for the electric power sector early next month. AEE views these impending regulations as an opportunity to modernize the electric power system for higher performance as well as reduce carbon emissions.
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