Energy Efficiency Bill and Senate Inaction

Wrangling in the U.S. Senate over unrelated amendments has derailed the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy bill for a second time. The stalemate left the bill’s supporters unable to gain the 60 votes needed to end debate over the bill and move to a final vote Monday.

There seems to be little disagreement in Congress over the contents of the bill itself, which would strengthen efficiency standards for federal, commercial, and residential buildings and boost investment in energy-saving technologies, among other measures. Instead, a deadlock over proposed amendments to the bill have stymied efforts to pass it. Chief among those was the push to get a binding vote on the Keystone XL pipeline in order to bypass the State Department. (See related story: “Can Senate Force Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline?“)

Last fall, the efficiency bill fell victim to a vote-stopping amendment from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) tied to Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In the latest battle, Republicans wanted amendments on Keystone XL, EPA restrictions on power plants, and other energy causes. Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked those efforts.

The Alliance to Save Energy, which noted that Monday marked the third anniversary of Shaheen-Portman’s introductory press conference, said in a statement, “Our sights now are focused on the House of Representatives, which has already passed an energy efficiency bill … [Hopefully,] we will see the Shaheen-Portman bill brought back to the Senate floor for a vote on final passage before the year closes.”

Other federal efforts on energy efficiency will proceed without Congress. On Friday, President Obama announced new executive actions that included $2 billion in improvements to federal buildings; tightening efficiency standards for electric motors and walk-in coolers; and gaining commitments from states, school districts, retailers and other entities to improve energy efficiency across more than 1 billion square feet. (Vote and comment: “What Energy Solution Should We Develop Next?“)

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