Shaheen-Portman To Make One More Attempt At An Energy Efficiency Bill

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

The lead to the story in the National Journal really sums up the frustration surrounding the bi-partisan energy efficiency bill created by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

“Ohio Republican Rob Portman and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen are either gluttons for punishment or close to picking the political lock that often keeps even widely supported legislation out in the cold,” the National Journal wrote.

The two senators have been proposing this energy saving legislation since 2011. It has received wide-spread support from both democrats and republicans. Trade groups, including NAED, have given the legislation its full support. In fact, at the past two NAED Fly-Ins, the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill has been a key topic of discussion with Senators and House members. Business and environmental groups with great influence in Washington, D.C. have also given the bill their full support. It’s one of those rare situations over the past 6 years when the gridlock in Washington, D.C. appeared to be on the verge of breaking.

And, today, the bill is still as far away from passing as ever before. But Shaheen and Portman will not give up, and on Wednesday, March 11, they proposed the bill one more time. This time, it will give us a true indication if the times are changing on The Hill.

The bill will allow rebates for the reduction of energy use in commercial buildings, manufacturing plants and homes. It will allow the Energy Department and enhanced Energy Department work with manufacturers to develop and commercialize efficient technologies and industrial processes, create stronger “model” building codes and assistance to help states and local governments adopt them, start a program to train people for careers in efficient building design and operation, provide programs to increase energy efficiency in federal buildings, and allow energy savings to be incorporated into federally-backed mortgages to encourage greater efficiency.

It’s a win-win piece of legislation when it stands alone. The problem is, since its introduction, it hasn’t been a stand-alone bill. Amendments for everything from the Keystone Pipeline to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has left it stalled during debate. Major publications, including USA Today, describe the situation as the true indicator of the dysfunction in the nation’s capitol, where even the simplest of bills, one that has a benefit for the entire country, one that has support from a wide variety of organizations, cannot be passed.

“We have gotten bogged down in the dysfunction of Washington in the past,” Senator Portman told the National Journal. “We’re hopeful that we can now gain traction in this Congress.”

The bill has made it to the Senator floor for debate twice in the last four years, but stalled each time. This time, Shaheen and Portman will have a bi-partisan group of cosponsors for the bill, which may avoid the potential amendments that have killed it in the past.

But, there are also some outside concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon-emissions rules. “I hope that we can do it in a way that continues the focus on what we agree about efficiency, because I think there is overwhelmingly bipartisan support for the major provisions of this legislation,” Senator Shaheen told the National Journal.  “So it would be a shame to let another energy issue derail our ability to go forward on efficiency again.”

Also, the Heritage Action group has opposed the previous versions of the bill, claiming it does not have the funding for the energy efficiency programs. But Shaheen and Portman say the bill would create nearly 200,000 jobs over the next 15 years, save Americans $16 billion a year in energy costs and cut emissions. Supporters range from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a wide variety of trade associations and corporate heavy hitters like Westinghouse and General Electric.

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