With the reintroduction of energy efficiency legislation and a first move on comprehensive tax reform, energy issues received significant attention in Washington last week. They will continue to garner consideration this week as President Obama unveils his fiscal year 2015 budget request and Congress takes up several energy measures.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced a revised version of their energy efficiency legislation, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014, (S. 2074) February 27. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), John Hoeven (D-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) cosponsored the measure. The updated package incorporates ten amendments on issues ranging from energy efficient federal data centers to water heaters; besides the amendments, the remainder of the text remains largely the same. The senators have been working behind the scenes for months to revive the bill, which collapsed on the Senate floor last year amid fights over amendments; they hope to show Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that it has enough broad support to overcome procedural hurdles. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has promised that his committee will consider the legislation if it clears the Senate.
The House is expected to vote this week on its own energy efficiency package from Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT). The Better Buildings Act (H.R. 2126) would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a Tenant Star program, similar to the Energy Star program, to promote efficiency in tenant-occupied commercial buildings. The House will consider the measure under a suspension of the rules. Text from several other noncontroversial energy efficiency measures have been added to the package, including language that would loosen water heater standards (H.R. 4066), that would increase government data center efficiency (H.R. 540), and that would encourage commercial building energy benchmarking (H.R. 3820). The provisions are also included in the Senate package.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) released draft tax reform legislation, the Tax Reform Act of 2014, February 26. As part of the comprehensive package, the measure would repeal nearly all energy tax credits, impacting both the fossil fuel and clean energy industries.
As a precursor to addressing comprehensive reform in the Senate, which is not likely to occur this year, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) is consulting with Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R- UT) about moving forward with a tax extenders package. The committee may hold a vote on the package this spring. The Economic Policy Institute released a briefing February 25 on the expired tax extenders, finding that extending this year’s provisions would cost $46.6 billion over the next decade, and $517 billion when including the perpetually expiring provisions through 2024. Supporters of the production tax credit, particularly, continue to urge an extension of expired provision.
President Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget request March 4. Later this week, Senate and House Budget panels will begin to examine the request. Speaking to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy summit February 26, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that the fiscal 2015 budget request will continue to demonstrate the president’s commitment to clean energy, despite the discretionary spending cap that was included in the budget agreement earlier this year. Last year’s budget agreement included budget resolution top line numbers for both fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Please find attached our analysis of the energy and environment portions of the budget request, including the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said February 26 that the Water Resources Development Act conference committee has resolved the most problematic issues, and she hopes to wrap up an agreement in the next few weeks.
Also this week, the House will consider bills that address the disposal of mining waste near streams and valleys (H.R. 2824); would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from establishing greenhouse gas standards on power plants unless the limits were differentiated for coal and natural gas plants (H.R. 3826); would streamline the environmental review process for federal construction projects (H.R. 2641); would delay the Affordable Care Act (H.R. 4118); and would reduce flood insurance premiums (H.R. 3370). The Senate resumes debate on judicial nominations and a child- care block grants bill (S. 1086).