Amendments Stall Energy Bill

March 16, 2016

pic-energyThe Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012) introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) continues to be mired in the amendment process. The measure was initially slated to be approved by a bipartisan vote in early February. However, a dispute over amendments providing relief for the city of Flint, Michigan initially stalled the legislation leading to several weeks of negotiating between Republicans and Democrats regarding both the scope of the relief and from where the funding would come. The dispute was finally resolved with an amendment offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) which will provide over $200 million to cities experiencing water contamination issues.

Despite a deal in place on the Flint amendment, the legislation is still mired over two holds placed on amendments by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla). There has been considerable work done to address Sen. Lee’s hold on the Flint aid amendment package. However, Sen. Nelson’s hold over an amendment offered by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) does not appear close to a resolution. The amendment in question would expand a funding program that shares offshore revenues between Gulf States and the Federal Government. However, Sen. Nelson is concerned that this will ultimately open the door for offshore exploration and production off the coast of Florida, which he has a long history of opposing.

Despite the holds, the legislation could still see floor time in the coming week. However, in order to proceed there would need to be a cloture vote to stop debate on the amendments which requires 60 votes, which coupled with the time need to actually approve the underlying legislation could require more floor time than is available. There still appears to be bipartisan support for the overall legislation, but it is uncertain that it would garner enough support to survive the procedural votes with the two issues outstanding.

NSBA supports the passage of energy policy legislation that recognizes the United States’ energy infrastructure needs investment. Improving the energy infrastructure and allowing for the freer flow of energy across borders will increase the resilience of the energy grid and protect small businesses from disruptions in service and unpredictable swings in price. A stable and consistent energy supply is essential for small business which operate on tighter margins and can least afford the delays and stoppages caused by an outdated energy grid. For more information about this legislation please see previous articles here and here.