Energy Policy:

Alliance to Save Energy's Callahan discusses future of Senate efficiency bill, amendments

As Senate leadership weighs the future of the Shaheen-Portman efficiency measure this week, how could controversial amendments affect the legislation's chances of passing the full Senate? During today's OnPoint, Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, discusses the Senate's latest moves and explains why she believes, despite increased state and local action on efficiency, federal support is still necessary.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. Kateri, it's nice to have you back on the show.

Kateri Callahan: It's so good to be back, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: Kateri, all eyes this week are on the Senate and the fate of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill that may come to the floor this week. The debate here, the big debate is really over which amendments may or may not be attached to the bill. What's your sense on how committed Senate leadership is to getting this bill to the floor is an unobstructed of a way as possible?

Kateri Callahan: Well, I think our sense of it is, and having talked to both the leadership, the minority and the majority side, they really want to see this bill get to the floor. They've been committed. We've been working with them literally for months and months. How many amendments get offered and what will the nature of those be? We still don't know at this point in time. But we do know that there's a commitment, and certainly, the Senate Energy Committee leadership, the sponsors of the bill, Senators Shaheen and Portman, both of whom are honorary chairs of the Alliance to Save Energy, all are committed to getting this to the floor. And there's a narrow of window of time that we have left this week to get it done, and that's really I think the problem with the amendments, is how long will it take to get through whatever number are offered?

Monica Trauzzi: And so the two big controversial amendments that we've been watching that could be tacked on are a Keystone XL amendment and an EPA regulation amendment. And Senator Barrasso recently said that if either of those are attached, the efficiency bill will sort of be stopped from moving. What impact do you believe those two individual measures could have on the future of the bill?

Kateri Callahan: You know, it's hard to say, and those measures will have to be voted up or down. I think the jury's out on whether or not either one could garner enough votes to actually be attached to the bill. Again, I go back to it's how much time does it take to get through that process? And we're following about 20 amendments, many of which we would love to see appended to the bill, but again, it's going to take time. And so our goal is to get Shaheen-Portman considered, the underlying bill considered and approved by the Senate. We know we've got the votes for that. So that really is the game for us, and there's a limited amount of time, so we're very hopeful that people, you know, even on the friendly side of amendments, as we see them, will tamp down their enthusiasm for having to try to load everything onto this bill, and will wait for another day.

Monica Trauzzi: This bill is really being watched closely as a barometer of the Senate and what the Senate is capable of during this term. How much of an impact do you think this has, and how politically important and significant is it?

Kateri Callahan: Yeah. Well, first of all, it's important and significant for what it will do for the country. There have been studies that were done on a similar bill introduced by Shaheen and Portman last year that say that by 2030, this is going to save Americans net energy savings of $20 billion a year, remove CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 21 million cars off the road, and create about 139,000 jobs. So it's important just for what it is. It is equally if not more important because it will signal, we believe, a door opener, if you will, for other energy efficiency legislation to come before not just the Senate, but the House. We, in talking to the folks over in the House, they're waiting to see if the Senate can get this bill through. There have been a number of energy efficiency bills introduced on a bipartisan basis in the House, including companion legislation to the Shaheen-Portman bill, and if the Senate can show that it can act and it can move the bill, then we believe the House will follow suit and start taking action on some of these other measures.

Monica Trauzzi: So you think this could eventually make its way to the President?

Kateri Callahan: I absolutely believe that it can. You know, I always like to tell people, Senator Shaheen was a former honorary chair of the Alliance, and I would never bet against that lady. She gets things done. And, you know, if you'll recall, in the last Congress when there was virtually no energy legislation, the one bill that got through was Shaheen-Portman, and it was a piece of that first bill that they introduced, and this is now coming back and picking up the rest of it.

Monica Trauzzi: Across the country, we're seeing a lot of businesses and states adopt policies to promote efficiency. There's a lot of engagement on the local level. So is sort of this federal look at efficiency really necessary when we're seeing so much activity on the local level?

Kateri Callahan: I think it's critical. If we're going to meet the President's goal of doubling energy productivity by 2030, it's going to take a partnership between local, state, and the federal government. And if you look at the types of bills that are being introduced in Shaheen-Portman, for example, it provides technical assistance to states. It would create funding that it would give to states to put in place, financing mechanisms to do energy efficiency retrofits to commercial buildings and large multi-family residential buildings. So the government has a key critical role. We chartered a commission last year, it's the National Commission on Energy Efficiency Policy, to look at the next generation of policies that need to be put in place if we're going to double energy productivity. About half of the 54 recommendations we came forward with are directed at the state and local level, but the other half are directed at the federal level. We cannot as a nation and a national policy take a pass on this. It's just too important.

Monica Trauzzi: You've been working on efficiency issues for many, many years now. How does this moment feel? You're almost at the finish line, but politics may get in the way.

Kateri Callahan: Yeah. You know what, though? I tend to be optimistic. And again, when you have the kind of champions we have behind this, when you have Senator Murkowski, Senator Wyden, Senator Shaheen, Senator Portman, all pulling for you, it feels really good. I think we're about to get it. And again, my sense is if we can show we can get this done and get it done on a bipartisan basis, it opens the door for doing a lot more. I mean, look, these things, they're low cost, they're practical, they're pragmatic, they have an economic benefit that is undeniable, and there's just no reason, other than politics, not to do these pieces of legislation. And so I think this will help us get over the politics and get back to the business of driving energy efficiency and improving our economy.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, Kateri. It'll be an interesting week to watch.

Kateri Callahan: It's going to be a fun week.

Monica Trauzzi: Thank you for coming on the show.

Kateri Callahan: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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