Energy Bill Poised for Floor Vote

March 2, 2016

pic-energy-solarThis week, the Senate will resume consideration of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012). The measure, introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), enjoys bipartisan support and is expected to pass. Specifically, the bill includes sweeping changes that will among other things, increase energy efficiency requirements, simplify investments in energy infrastructure and increase security in the nation’s power grid. After moving through the Senate, it will ultimately be conferenced with the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, (H.R. 8) which passed the House in December 2015.

The Senate energy reform legislation was on track for approval early in February 2016 when it stalled over an amendment to provide aid to Flint, Michigan for dealing with its water crisis. Senate Democrats held up the earlier consideration of S. 2012 when an amendment proposed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) providing $600 million in aid to the Flint was not included in the legislation prior to the final vote. While there was generally bipartisan support for providing aid, disagreement centered over how much to provide and from where the money should come.

This week, the Senate intends to finalize the last of the amendments to the legislation, including the Flint amendment and then vote on the measure as a whole. The Flint amendment would direct $220 million to cities with water contamination issues. In order to pay for the aid, the legislation would cut funding from Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. Because the funding for that program is classified as emergency spending, its funds can not be diverted to balance spending. Therefore, it is unclear whether cutting it would technically satisfy the Senate’s pay-as-you-go rule which requires new expenditures be offset. If it is in violation of the pay-as-you-go rules, a Senator may raise a point of order against the amendment and prevent it from moving forward.  However, it is clear that leadership on both sides are interested in passing this legislation and the amendment would in reality not increase expenditures, so it is likely that it will ultimately proceed without objection on that point.

NSBA supports continued investment into the backbone of America’s economy: its energy infrastructure. It is absolutely essential to small businesses that they have a reliable energy infrastructure on which to depend. Increasing inadequate grid security and reliability benefit all small businesses and protect them from disruptions in service which can prove crippling. While improvements to the pipeline approval process will allow for the freer flow of energy and keep power rates stable. NSBA supports changes such as these which provide a more stable and predictable environment in which small businesses can operate.