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Could energy efficiency legislation proposed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D. NH) and Rob Portman (R. OH) actually have a chance of passing?

Though prospects for a wide-ranging energy bill are slim, experts say measures to improve energy efficiency could help reduce energy costs and consumption while also addressing global warming in the short term. The International Energy Agency, for example, said in a report issued late last year that a global energy-efficiency push could do a great deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions while countries work on a binding climate change accord.

“As we see a divided Congress, it’s nice to see something that we can agree on. I think this bill is one of them,” Portman told POLITICO in a joint interview with Shaheen ahead of the bill’s official release. “We’re optimistic that we can make progress in the Senate in the short run and get it through the House in the next year and then get it signed into law.”

The bill’s success is far from certain, but the senators say they’ve taken every precaution to prevent the measure from going down in flames.

Over the course of months-long negotiations, the senators have won the buy-in of more than 200 organizations, from the Union of Concerned Scientists to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They’ve alleviated the concerns of Republican senators wary of federal mandates and expensive new programs. And they’ve reached out to their counterparts in the House.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I think it’s a pretty good model of how you get things done over here,” Portman said. “It’s an example of what can get done around here if you have a transparent, open process.”

Shaheen and Portman will unveil their legislation during a press conference Thursday morning and will be joined by a range of trade groups that support the bill, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alliance to Save Energy and the National Association of Manufacturers. - Politico, 4/18/13

Portman says he is expecting the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to hold a vote on the legislation in May or June.

The reintroduced Shaheen-Portman legislation offers a deficit-neutral framework designed to promote the transition to a more energy efficient economy while driving economic growth and encouraging private sector job creation.  This bipartisan bill uses a variety of low-cost tools to reduce barriers for private sector energy users and will drive adoption of off-the-shelf efficiency technologies among the largest energy consumers.

Similar legislation cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the 112th Congress after similarly securing broad, bipartisan support.  In total, last year’s legislation was endorsed by more than 200 entities ranging from businesses, environmental groups, think tanks and trade associations. Supporters included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufactures (NAM), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades – all organizations that are supporting this year’s legislation as well.  Several provisions of the legislation, which focus on industrial and federal agency efficiency, were signed into law in December.

The updated legislation builds upon the earlier Congressional support for energy efficiency legislation by embracing a bipartisan approach that will spur the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of our economy.  A study by experts at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that last year’s version would have saved consumers $4 billion by 2020 and helped businesses add 80,000 jobs to the economy.  Shaheen and Portman’s efforts last year were “considered a textbook case on how to pass a bill,” according to a Roll Call article. - eNews Park Forest, 4/18/13

Such a bill might be able to pass the Senate but what about the House?  Shaheen and Portman made some moves aimed to get their legislation pushed through the House:

The senators have tapped Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), a conservative member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to take the lead on the House version. The West Virginia Republican submitted the House bill on Thursday with Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) as a co-sponsor, McKinley's office told The Hill.

Shaheen said she expects the House legislation to be similar to the Senate model.

The decision to remove some items from the latest round of Shaheen-Portman, as it’s known, was designed to attract support from House GOP lawmakers.

“One of the things we tried to do was to respond to some of the concerns we heard the last session of Congress,” Shaheen said.

Missing from the current iteration is an expansion of a federal loan guarantee program for energy efficiency, as well as a state revolving grant program. Both of those efforts carried a $400 million annual authorization.

Shaheen said the absence of those provisions wouldn’t diminish the legislation’s impact, noting the bill includes a new state-based financing program.

On top of spending issues, conservatives last year objected to more stringent efficiency standards in new building codes called for in the bill.

But Shaheen said the codes were misconstrued. She maintained they were voluntary, and they still were in the bill reintroduced Thursday.

Portman added that there “are no mandates in the bill.”

Still, some Republicans — especially those in the House — would likely object to even voluntary standards out of fear that they could one day become mandatory.

It does, however, include several measures that will please Republicans — chiefly, a requirement that the federal government adopt energy-saving practices. - The Hill, 4/18/13

Rumor has it that Senators Chris Coons (D. DE) and Lamar Alexander (R. TN) might sign on as co-sponsors.  You can read the Shaheen-Portman bill here:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Apr 19, 2013 at 10:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Take New Hampshire Forward! and Climate Hawks.


Do you think the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill has a chance of passing through congress?

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