Senate to vote on monuments, efficiency standard

By Geof Koss, Hannah Hess | 02/02/2016 06:55 AM EST

The Senate today will vote on a Republican measure limiting the president’s authority to set national monuments and a Democratic proposal to set national energy efficiency standards, as the chamber tries to finish work on a bipartisan energy package by week’s end.

The Senate today will vote on a Republican measure limiting the president’s authority to set national monuments and a Democratic proposal to set national energy efficiency standards, as the chamber tries to finish work on a bipartisan energy package by week’s end.

Senators will vote this afternoon on an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to sunset national monument designations after three years unless Congress and the monument’s home state enact legislation to make them permanent.

A second amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to the broad energy legislation (S. 2012) would create a national energy efficiency resource standard.


Both amendments will have to surpass a 60-vote threshold for approval — a bar that Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said backers are unlikely to meet.

"We will see how the votes go out, but I think you’ve noted the obvious — that there is some controversy associated with both of them," she told E&E Daily last night.

However, Murkowski noted that both amendments represent priorities of both parties and reflect her push with ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to maintain the bipartisan spirit that carried S. 2012 through committee last summer on an 18-4 vote.

"What we’re trying to do is put together a process that is viewed as fair by both sides," she said. "So if you’ve got a tough one on the D side, maybe you pair it with a tough one on the R side."

The chamber approved eight amendments by voice vote last night before adjourning, including a provision by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) related to energy and water use in federal buildings and an amendment by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) encouraging Department of Energy electric grid modernization efforts to include coordination on energy storage.

Senators approved an amendment by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) expanding the eligibility for brownfields cleanup grants to nonprofits, a measure by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) adding cybersecurity interests to a new energy workforce advisory board and an amendment by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) adding veterans and armed services members to an energy workforce pilot grant program.

Lawmakers also passed amendments by Tom Udall (D-N.M.) clarifying a provision in the underlying bill related to critical minerals and a measure by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) related to green building certification programs.

Murkowski said she and Cantwell are hoping to broker an agreement for additional roll call votes on some of the more than 200 amendments that colleagues have proposed.

"We’re taking it one step at a time," Murkowski said, keeping alive a hope to finish the bill by Thursday. "That’s the plan."

Amendments galore

Amendments continued to trickle in yesterday.

Inhofe introduced an amendment targeting the president’s climate plan. It would ensure that the federal government does not take any action pursuant to the plan that would reduce grid reliability.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced an amendment to launch an investigation into Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement actions regarding "demand for, or seizure of, helicopter fuel from private companies."

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment to remove Mexican gray wolves from the endangered species list.

Udall introduced an amendment allowing Americans to invest in so-called Clean Energy Victory Bonds.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced an amendment to mandate a retrospective review of major rules with an economic impact of $100 million or more. Heitkamp also introduced an amendment to affirm federal commitments to carbon capture research.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also introduced a carbon capture related amendment. Theirs would help finance projects.

Outside pressure

Senators continue to receive pressure on the bill from interest groups.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday told senators it "strongly supports" the bill and will consider votes related to the measure when it compiles its annual scorecard.

"America’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since Congress last passed a multi-title energy bill and it is crucial that federal energy policy reflect these changes in order to maximize and prolong the benefits the recent energy renaissance is producing," the U.S. Chamber wrote in a letter released yesterday.

"This bill takes important steps to address many areas of high priority for American businesses, including natural gas exports, efficiency and infrastructure," wrote the group.

The conservative American Energy Alliance yesterday announced it would count three pending amendments when calculating lawmaker voting record tallies.

AEA supports an amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to repeal the federal renewable fuel standard, as well as an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to strike the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the energy bill.

AEA is also opposed to an amendment by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), which has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), to limit the ability of state regulators to alter net-metering policies.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, penned a letter to senators yesterday urging them to oppose amendments targeting Endangered Species Act protections for several species.