Energy Efficiency Legislation Passes Senate

April 8, 2015

pic-congress-committeeAfter the conclusion of the Senate passage of the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget resolution, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) pulled an interesting maneuver on the Senate floor, and managed to pass S. 535, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, a “mini” version of the energy efficiency bill they have been trying to pass through the chamber for nearly four years. While this bill is a “slimmed down” version of the more comprehensive S. 720, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2015, it marks great progress on the path toward bipartisan action on energy reform.

Strategically, the two senators appeared on the Senate floor about a half hour after the chamber passed is FY 2016 budget resolution and after every other lawmaker had departed, except for Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who was serving as the presiding officer. At around 4:10 a.m., Portman and Shaheen took positions at the podiums designated for their respective party leaders and then Portman called up S. 535. Once the title was read, it was passed on the voice vote of the Ohio Republican’s singular “aye,” after which Boozman announced the measure had passed.

The new bill contains several budget neutral provisions including the creation of a voluntary Tenant Star certification program—similar to the Energy Star program—that seeks to make leased buildings more efficient. It also contains a compromise provision exempting some water heaters from Energy Department efficiency regulations set to take effect next month, an accord struck among manufacturers, rural power users and environmentalists. Finally, it also requires that federally-leased buildings without Energy Star labels disclose their energy usage data.

Portman-Shaheen have been trying to pass their efficiency legislation for years, only for it to fall prey to unrelated partisan divides over issues such as the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The legislation that passed on March 27 had previously cleared the Senate as an attachment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill that President Barack Obama vetoed last month.

The new standalone bill still must clear the House, which last year approved a similar package in a broad bipartisan vote. Similar legislation in the House is currently pending, but is yet to move through committee.

NSBA has long-supported the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, and commends Sens. Portman and Shaheen on their tireless efforts and hard work to pass this measure in order to provide greater energy efficiency and economic growth in this country. If enacted, this bill will promote and facilitate the development and deployment of new energy efficiency technologies and the adoption of more efficient processes.