Energy Bill Stalls Over Flint Amendment

February 10, 2016

pic-energy-powerOn Feb. 4, 2016, a procedural vote in the Senate to end debate on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012) failed by a vote of 43-54. S. 2012 is a broad energy reform bill which increases security in the power grid and energy efficiency requirements, among other things.

The Senate Democrats held up a final vote on S. 2012, over a lack of funding to aid the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. On Feb. 3, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) submitted an amendment to S. 2012 that would provide the city of Flint with $600 million to remove the lead pipes which contributed to the on-going water crisis in that city. Republicans were primarily opposed to the amendment since they could not find a significant offset to pay for the funding.

Senate Energy and National Resources Chair and sponsor of S. 2012, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) worked through the weekend to find a compromise but it is still unclear whether the final  legislation will be voted on later this week. Senate leadership is hopeful that an agreement on the Flint amendment can be made this week and final vote following shortly thereafter.  If approved, the legislation will be conferenced with the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015 (H.R. 8), energy policy legislation that passed the House late last year.

As one of the only major pieces of legislation expected to move through the Senate this year, S. 2012 has become an attractive vehicle for Senators favorite projects. Almost 340 amendments have been submitted to bill and of those, 32 have been adopted to the legislation. The amendment process has been tightly controlled by Republican leadership and for the most part only non-controversial amendments were brought to the floor, rarely requiring more than a voice vote to adopt. Amendments to reauthorize the a diesel emissions reduction program, designate thermal energy as a renewable energy and to update the definition of “smart manufacturing” were all easily adopted to the bill, and are fairly representative of the types of amendments being considered for adoption.

One controversial amendment (S.A. 2996) submitted by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) which would require existing regulations of greater or equal costs be removed as new regulations are promulgated was narrowly defeated on Feb. 2. However, controversial amendments that would repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and withdraw the Clean Power Plan, submitted by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo)  and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Ala.) respectively, have not been considered on the floor and are unlikely to before a final vote. Those amendments attacking fundamental environmental policy of President Barack Obama’s administration are universally seen as non-starters.

An aging energy infrastructure is increasingly unreliable and susceptible to external threats and disruptions. With the small profit margins that small businesses operate on, disruptions in services and unpredictable pricing are the especially damaging. NSBA supports reforms aimed at updating our infrastructure and making it more efficient. Nevertheless, NSBA continues to be concerned that an energy policy prematurely shifting the market away from fossil fuels will lead place unrealistic expectations on emerging technologies and create uncertainty in the energy sector.