Senate plots return to energy reform bill without Flint aid

By Geof Koss | 04/14/2016 07:17 AM EDT

Months of negotiations over the Senate energy reform package yielded a surprise agreement yesterday to bring the measure back to the floor as early as next week, after lawmakers decided to put off fights on offshore drilling and money for Flint, Mich.

Months of negotiations over the Senate energy reform package yielded a surprise agreement yesterday to bring the measure back to the floor as early as next week, after lawmakers decided to put off fights on offshore drilling and money for Flint, Mich.

Under a unanimous consent agreement last night, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will determine the timing for debate on amendments and the overall legislation.

A GOP aide said movement could happen as early as Tuesday. About four hours of debate and votes are likely before final passage of the energy bill, S. 2012.


The bipartisan package has been stuck since February over a push by Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters for an amendment to help Flint residents cope with the city’s drinking water crisis.

Although the pair lifted their hold yesterday, they didn’t give up quietly. They criticized Sen. Mike Lee, who objected to the Flint aid over spending concerns. Weeks of negotiations did not satisfy the Utah Republican.

"It’s totally unacceptable that Sen. Lee continues to block a vote on our fully-paid for, bipartisan agreement to help Flint and other communities across the nation who have serious lead and water problems," Stabenow said in a statement.

Peters said the pair "will continue to seek a path forward for our legislation to help the people of Flint, who are still living without clean, safe water."

Lee’s office declined to comment.

Also facilitating yesterday’s agreement was removal of a planned vote on an amendment by Sens. Bill Cassidy and David Vitter, both Louisiana Republicans, to expand offshore drilling revenue sharing.

A spokeswoman last night said Cassidy "is glad the energy bill is moving forward. Stay tuned for details on his revenue sharing plan."

A competing amendment by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to cancel revenue-sharing under a 2006 law is now also off the amendment list, according to the agreement.

With the Cassidy-Vitter amendment off the table, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson subsequently lifted his own hold against moving forward with the energy bill.

Nelson last night told E&E Daily that he didn’t think Cassidy and Vitter were anywhere close to getting the 60 votes necessary for adoption but that he wasn’t willing to risk it. Nelson thinks expanded revenue sharing could encourage drilling off Florida’s coast.

Planned amendments

Under the deal, senators plan to take roll call votes subject to 60-vote thresholds on the following amendments:

  • An amendment from Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to address public land conveyances in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
  • An amendment by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) to allow energy cost savings to be considered in determining home values.
  • An amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to address Corolla wild horses.
  • An amendment by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) to limit land acquisition under the Land and Water Conservation Fund until certain requirements on public land maintenance are met.
  • An amendment from Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to impose reporting requirements on transmission infrastructure projects.
  • An amendment from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to require the Treasury secretary to develop a plan for issuing "Clean Energy Victory Bonds."
  • An amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), which was unavailable last night. Paul’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
  • An amendment from Markey and Cassidy to authorize the Department of Energy to increase drawdowns and sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to maximize the financial return to the Treasury.

Senators will also vote en bloc on the following amendments:

  • An amendment from Cantwell to strike provisions relating to technology demonstration on distribution systems, geothermal facilities and biopower initiatives.
  • An amendment from Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to promote development of renewables on public land.
  • An amendment from Vitter to require a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement review of the economic impact of the blowout preventer rule.
  • An amendment from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to exclude certain power equipment from efficiency standards.
  • An amendment Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to encourage minority serving institutions be included in a strategy for developing an energy workforce.
  • An amendment from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to modify provisions establishing a coal technology program.
  • An amendment from Cantwell setting a "sense of the Senate" to accelerate energy research.
  • An amendment from Cantwell to improve energy response efforts at the Energy Department.
  • An amendment from Vitter to require a Government Accountability Office report on the statutory and regulatory authorities of Interior’s BSEE to procure helicopter fuel.
  • An amendment from Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) to convey federal lands within the Swan Lake hydroelectric project in his state.
  • An amendment from Vitter to establish a community college or two-year "Center of Excellence" to promote the energy and maritime workforce around the country.
  • An amendment from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to remove land-use restrictions on land in Rockingham County, Va.
  • An amendment from Kaine to allow interagency transfer along the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia.
  • An amendment from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to establish a National Science and Technology Council subcommittee for high-energy physics.
  • An amendment from Udall to establish a voluntary WaterSense program within U.S. EPA.
  • An amendment from Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to require a study of waivers of certain DOE cost-sharing requirements.
  • An amendment from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to authorize the entire active capacity of Fontenelle Reservoir to be made available to use.
  • An amendment from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to change the calculation of fuel economy standards for dual-use vehicles.
  • An amendment from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to add a provision limiting the use of certain grants to fund building construction.
  • An amendment from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to establish a pilot project within the Western Area Power Administration to improve transparency of power costs.
  • An amendment from Flake to create a program to reduce the potential impacts of solar facilities on certain species.
  • An amendment from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to require the Interior Department to make recommendations to Congress on incorporating internet-based lease sales for some federal oil and gas offerings.
  • An amendment from Murkowski to clarify provisions related to the natural gas pipeline in Denali National Park and Preserve.