Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M) has announced plans to develop specific clean-energy proposals for inclusion in the second economic stimulus plan, anticipated for consideration in January 2009 by the 111th Congress. In a hearing held yesterday, Dec. 10, 2008, Sen. Bingaman called on witnesses to offer their ideas on clean-energy programs, technology and infrastructure, specifically focusing on projects that may positively impact jobs in the next two years.
While the amount of the potential second stimulus remains unclear, feedback from testimony indicated that approximately one-fourth to one-third of the economic recovery package should be directed toward funding and investing in clean energy projects, including technology and infrastructure. Suggestions from witnesses spanned a wide range of size and scope, and included the construction of a national smart grid, weatherization programs, and energy efficiency tax credits. Additionally, witnesses recommended that the stimulus provide funding for green jobs initiatives that Congress has already authorized, while some senators on the committee admonished Congress for not having already done so.
Along with developing clean energy, Bingaman plans to allocate funds to the repair of roads, trails, dams and buildings. Emphasizing the need to invest in restoring the country’s natural infrastructure, Bingaman explained that his push for green stimulus spending includes billions of dollars for the Interior Department and Forest Service for restoration of forests, wetlands, rivers and rangelands. Republicans indicated their desire to include nuclear energy and coal-to-liquid technology in the stimulus.
Ranking member Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) cautioned that green job creation may stall in light of legal challenges on environmental issues, and advised that the stimulus include an expedited NEPA process in order to avoid lawsuits and other challenges tying up allocated funds. According to Sen. Domenici, implementation of a streamlined environmental review process would prevent delays on major projects, and thus allow job creation over the targeted two-year timeframe.
The committee continues to seek proposals from a broad variety of sources, and will post ideas on its Web site in the upcoming weeks.
A committee press release on the hearing is available at: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=58d95ce3-135c-4e51-98ba-96633694183d&Month=12&Year=2008&Party=0.