By Brian Sewell
Since being introduced to the Senate in July, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, also known as Shaheen-Portman (S. 1392), promised to be the first major energy bill passed by the Senate in more than six years. Hours after debate began on the bill, however, that possibility diminished with the addition of each unrelated amendment.
Shaheen-Portman is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that focuses on improving energy efficiency throughout the industrial sector and the federal government.
On Sept.18, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the bill would not move forward if lawmakers were unable to agree on narrowing down the dozens of amendments, some related, others not, that were added to the bill.
The most controversial amendments, sought by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans senators were attempts to delay provisions of Obamacare. Others would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions or declare the Keystone XL pipeline to be in America’s national interest.
Of the more than 100 amendments proposed to Shaheen-Portman after it passed in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, several dozen were completely unrelated to energy or environmental or agricultural issues.
“No one was in opposition to the bill,” Rob Mosher, director of government relations at the Alliance to Save Energy, told Greentech Media. “It had broad political and stakeholder support, and there wasn’t any objection to the underlying bill.”
At press time, Reid had all but pulled the bill, saying “We’ll work on matters to craft a way forward on this bill, perhaps, or we may have to take the bill down.”
The bill’s supporters say that several proposed amendments could have increased its benefits by extending incentives to nonprofits who own their buildings, and allowing states and other entities to receive Department of Energy grants for energy efficiency upgrades in residential buildings.
“I’m disappointed that a small group of senators have delayed action on a bipartisan effort to create jobs, lower pollution, and save taxpayers money,” Sen. Shaheen said in a statement. “Shaheen-Portman is a bipartisan bill with an unprecedented amount of support because people from across the political spectrum agree that it is good for our economy and our environment.”
The bill has received support from a broad range of groups including environmental organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers — the largest industrial trade association in the country. The most outspoken detractors of the bill are The Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.
While it’s possible that Shaheen-Portman could come back up for consideration after yet another budget battle between Congress and President Obama, the chances of it passing this session have decreased substantially.