Senate Democrats lay out priorities for legislative package 

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015

As the debate over a broad energy package intensifies on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats today rolled out a sweeping list of energy policy priorities focused on curbing carbon emissions and investing in renewable technology.

In a letter soliciting input on energy policy from governors, the Democrats called for a national energy policy that prioritizes investment in clean energy sources and efforts to upgrade the U.S. electrical grid and other energy infrastructure.

“We believe the U.S. must establish a framework that helps unleash investment in our infrastructure sufficient to ensure all American citizens and businesses have access to affordable, efficient, reliable and cleaner energy,” they wrote in the letter.

Individual Democrats also chimed in in support of the effort.

“The need for clean, reliable and efficient supplies of energy is becoming closely intertwined with our economic growth and global competitiveness,” Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

Calling climate change “the most significant challenge our world faces,” Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged Congress to address the issue.

“Updating our outdated energy policy is a good place to start, and we look forward to reviewing suggestions from our country’s governors,” Reid said.

The letter was signed by 44 Senate Democrats and Maine independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the party. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another independent who caucuses with Democrats and is a vocal supporter of action on climate change, didn’t sign on.

The senators said the letter was a response to the release of the Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review. It comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle work to craft the first broad energy policy package in a decade.

Momentum in the House and Senate is building for the package, which could hit the floors of both chambers later this summer.

But the letter suggests the significant differences that remain between Democrats who support clean energy and Republican lawmakers who favor investment in energy efficiency and infrastructure modernization.