Senate inches toward deal on energy, Flint

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Senators were working yesterday afternoon to resolve the lone objection to an agreement to schedule votes on energy reform legislation and a separate measure to help Flint, Mich., cope with its drinking water crisis.

Should talks bear fruit, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters, the energy bill, S. 2012, could return to the floor later this week or next week.

An aide to Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) today said the senator had decided to lift his hold on the deal. The move came after lawmakers addressed Vitter concerns related to sportsmen’s provisions that passed the Environment and Public Works Committee but were not in the energy package (E&E Daily, March 1).

That leaves just one hold outstanding — by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has questioned the need for federal help for Flint (E&E Daily, March 8).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she spoke with Lee earlier today and was optimistic that the issue would be sorted out.

“We’re really in a good spot now,” she told E&ENews PM. “We are working to address all of the holds, and we’re feeling very, very, very good on all aspects of it, on the energy side and the Flint side.”

Speaking to reporters this afternoon before the weekly policy luncheons, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) offered a similar assessment.

“We have possibly found a path forward,” Stabenow said.

Lee has been pressing for changes to how Congress plans to pay for the $220 million Flint aid package, which would also make funds available for other communities affected by toxic drinking water.

An agreement between Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Stabenow would rescind unspent funds from the Energy Department’s advanced technology vehicles program.

Lee doesn’t want Congress to send aid to Flint now but pull the money from the DOE program in 2020. A Lee spokesman said in an email that staff members were working to hammer out the details.

Reporter George Cahlink contributed.