Monday, August 06, 2007

House Passes Comprehensive Energy Bill 241-172

Aug 4: In a lengthy Saturday session, preceding the Congressional summer recess, a highly partisan debate ultimately led to the passage of the comprehensive 888-page House energy bill -- New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221). The bill passed by a vote of 241 to 172, that included 26 Republicans voting for the measure and 9 Democrats voting against. Twenty members did not vote on the measure including 13 Republicans and 7 Democrats. The Senate passed its version of a comprehensive energy bill on June 21 [See WIMS 6/22/07]. Of note, the House-passed bill does not address the controversial issue of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) gas mileage standards which were included in the Senate bill; and, the Senate bill does not address the hotly debated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS, aka RES, Renewable Energy Standard), while the House-passed bill does. The House Democratic leadership has indicated it will address the CAFE standards and other global warming related issues in the fall.

At a press briefing following passage of the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "Today, the House propelled America’s energy policy into the future with the passage of the ‘New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act.’ Energy independence is a national security issue, an economic issue, an environmental and health issue, and a moral issue... A new coalition is forming in the Congress. The legislation proves that energy production, job creation, and environmental protection can be achieved all at once, which is why a new coalition of labor and environmental groups have come together to endorse our bill. It is a remarkable development that shows what cooperation and consultation can achieve... this was a flagship issue for my Speakership, that we get this energy bill passed, because it represented real change and a New Direction. It represented a break from the past. It represented a decision on the part of the Congress of United States, the House of Representatives, to make a decision for the future and not the status quo..." The speaker also released a Title-by-Tile summary of the bill and the full text [See links below].

One of the most significant amendments considered was that of the RPS standard. Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) offered the amendment which would require electric suppliers, "other than governmental entities and rural electric cooperatives," to provide 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy resources by the year 2020. The amendment would allows 4 percent of the requirement to be satisfied with electricity efficiency measures. The amendment passed by a vote of 220 to 190. Udall called the RPS an incremental federal standard for electric utilities to provide 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, other renewable energy sources and efficiency by 2020. The bill would require the RPS to be 2.75 percent by 2010, gradually increasing thereafter to meet the 2020 goal.

Udall said, "I am very proud to say that as a result of the extraordinary work of our amendment’s cosponsors and supporters, the House has passed a base Renewable Electricity Standard which will spur our nation one step closer to a clean energy future. Almost half of the states in our nation have already proven this standard is both achievable and realistic." Cosponsor Representative Todd Platts (R-PA) said, "This amendment is an important step -- similar to what is already taking place in many states, including my home state of Pennsylvania -- to help ensure America reduces its dependency on foreign oil and meets its growing energy needs in an environmentally-friendly manner. The question is whether we continue to approach the energy issue as we have for the past 30 years, or if we are going to work towards a more diversified, reliable, and clean energy supply. I look forward to seeing this or a similar provision in any final conference agreement with the Senate." The legislation was actively supported by a number of organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, and renewable energy industry groups.

A release from the House Science and Technology Committee highlighted several provisions of the bill that originated from that Committee including advancing the development of solar power, geothermal power, carbon capture and sequestration, alternative fuels, and other energy technologies. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said, “With concerns about global climate change, high gas and electricity prices, and our growing reliance on unstable energy-supplying nations, energy has been placed at the top of the congressional to-do list. Our future lies in our ability to develop a wide-range of energy technologies, make the use of coal -- which is our country's most affordable and abundant domestic energy resource -- cleaner through carbon capture and sequestration, and improve energy efficiency.”

In a separate, but closely related action, the House also passed a package of tax incentives to encourage the use and production of renewable energy and energy conservation and repeal, what Democrats called "excessive tax breaks for oil and gas companies." H.R. 2776, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 includes an estimated $16 billion in tax credits and bonds to promote investment in renewable energy production from wind, solar, geothermal, cellulosic ethanol and biofuels and other critical energy conservation initiatives. The measure would be financed by eliminating some $16 billion in oil and gas subsidies. The measure passed by a vote of 221-189.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) said, “This bill makes an investment in America’s energy independence through long-term incentives for the production and use of renewable energy and energy conservation. This bill sets an example by closing loopholes and repealing generous tax breaks to oil and gas companies enjoying record profits, to help American companies and communities lead the way in developing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the harmful effects of global warming. H.R. 2776 will also help cities and states provide bonds and grants to make sure that working families and businesses can do their share to purchase energy efficient heat pumps, appliances and make home improvements to conserve energy.” According to Speaker Pelosi, H.R. 2776 will be "combined with the larger package through the rule."

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman issued a statement on the passage of H.R. 2776 and H.R. 3221 saying, "Today the House passed legislation that does little to increase our nation's energy security or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the bills will actually lead to less domestic oil and gas production and increased dependence on imported oil. Because H.R. 2776 and H.R. 3221 fail to deliver American consumers or businesses more energy security, but rather would lead to higher energy costs and higher taxes, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto these bills. As the full Congress considers this legislation, I urge them to implement President Bush's Twenty in Ten Initiative that will reduce gasoline usage 20 percent in ten years and put America on a path towards a stronger, cleaner energy future." DOE also released a 2-page "Statement of Administration Policy" further detailing its objections to the bills.

[Note: Space limitations prevent a lengthy summary of individual groups' reaction. WIMS has included links to industry and environmental organization statements on H.R. 3221 below.]

Access legislative details for H.R. 3221 (
click here). Access the rollcall vote on final passage of the bill (click here). Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a summary of H.R. 3221 and H.R. 2776 (click here). Access the full text of H.R. 3221 (click here). Access a release from Representative Udall (NM, click here). Access a release from Representative Platts (click here). Access a release from Representative Gordon (click here). Access the briefing overview and link to the audio of the briefing (click here). Access links to various media reports on the bill passage (click here). Access a release from Representative Rangel (click here). Access a summary and additional information on H.R. 2776 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2776 (click here). Access the DOE statement and link to the Administration Policy (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from Natural Resources Defense Council (click here). Access information and link to a statement from the National Environmental Trust (click here). Access a letter from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a brief statement from the American Petroleum Institute (click here). Access a release and links to extensive information opposing the RPS from the Edison Electric Institute (click here).[*Energy, *Climate]

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