Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Senate Committee Approves Bipartisan Energy Bill

Jun 17: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) voted 15 to 8 to approve an energy bill that has been in the making for several months. The American Clean Energy Leadership Act is based on six major bills -- all with bipartisan sponsorship -- and five other bills with either Republican or Democratic sponsorship that were introduced in this session of Congress. Key provisions were developed through 39 bipartisan staff briefings, 20 formal hearings and 12 open business meetings. During the process of writing the bill, 100 amendments were considered and adopted, most on a bipartisan basis and many unanimously. The energy bill now goes to the Senate floor for consideration and final passage.

Chairman Bingaman said, “Getting America running on clean energy has been a key goal of this mark-up. This bill will help shift our country to cleaner sources of energy, and more secure sources as well. The bipartisan, substantive and forward-looking approaches to energy found in this bill will move America toward the clean jobs and economic growth we need.”

Ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, “Today, this committee reaches the end of a long and sometimes bumpy road toward reporting out energy legislation. Despite an uphill fight against Democrats’ three-vote majority, we were able to include a number of provisions that will lead to more domestic production of the conventional energy we need to drive this country. While I support this bill in its present form, we simply must do more to increase our domestic production and use of nuclear energy. I will continue to press for those provisions on the Senate floor.”

According to a Committee release, the "balanced, comprehensive, bipartisan" bill, in general would: - Accelerate the introduction of new clean energy technologies in the United States, creating new jobs and helping businesses grow through clean energy project financing, a renewable electricity standard and a robust and secure national electricity transmission highway; - Increase energy efficiency in buildings, major equipment and appliances, saving consumers and businesses billions of dollars on their energy bills; - Enhance America’s energy independence by increasing clean energy supplies and energy security, including new access to over 20 trillion cubic feet of clean natural gas resources; - Strengthen America as the world leader in energy innovation, by doubling our national investment in energy research and technology; - Build a new energy workforce for the future; - Protect consumers by making energy markets more transparent and fair, and by providing new tools to fight market manipulation; and -Tackle future energy and climate challenges with smarter, more integrated planning.

More specifically the bill includes a series of reforms to the existing Department of Energy loan guarantee program, including creating a new “Clean Energy Investment Fund.” It includes a renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring electric utilities to provide renewable sources in the following percentages for the following years: 2011-2013 (3%); 2014-2016 (6%); 2017-2018 (9%); 2019-2020 (12%); 2021-2039 (15%). Utilities selling less than 4 million megawatt hours per year would be exempt. Qualifying "Renewables" would include: wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower, hydrokinetic, new hydropower at existing dams with no generation.

Additionally, the bill establishes policy goals for transmission infrastructure; integrates decision-making regarding the interdependence of energy and water; increases the development of renewable energy on our public lands; improves manufacturing , consumer and building energy efficiency; aids in thwarting cybersecurity threats and improves energy security; increases "responsible production" of traditional energy sources (i.e. Eastern Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production, Alaska natural gas pipeline, inventory and analysis of marine resources in the Atlantic, Gulf and Alaska regions); provides clear statement of the Federal government’s support for nuclear energy and encourages resolution of the spent nuclear fuel issue; doubles the authorization level of DOE's R&D programs; provides for up to 10 commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration projects; and increases the transparency of our energy markets.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said the bill would open part of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for additional oil and natural gas leasing and clarify ambiguous language in Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which, as originally written, could have precluded Federal agencies from using transportation fuels derived from Canadian oil sands.

In a statement, API President Jack Gerard said, “The committee took a positive step forward by passing this bill which recognizes the importance of additional offshore oil and natural gas development and Canadian oil to our nation’s energy and economic security. The majority of Americans favor greater offshore development, and they recognize this development means more jobs, more government revenues and more domestic energy supplies. As the bill moves forward to the full Senate, we hope a resolution can be found to ensure that coastal states are compensated for hosting development off their shores because that production will benefit all Americans in terms of revenues, additional jobs and greater domestic energy supply.”

Access a release and bill summary from the Committee (
click here). Access an additional Committee summary of highlights (click here). Access a release and summary from Senator Murkowski (click here). Access more information on the various sections of the bill (click here). Access a release from API (click here).