Senate looks to extend energy winning streak

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 25, 2016

The Senate this week is looking to capitalize on bipartisan desire to right the wobbly appropriations process by passing the $37.5 billion fiscal 2017 energy and water development spending bill.

Debate will resume this afternoon, with a vote slated for 5:30 p.m. on an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to bar the administration from spending money on welded shipboard anchors and mooring chains unless they comply with federal acquisition rules, which require that such products to be made in the United States.

Tomorrow morning, the chamber will vote on an amendment by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to add $95 million for wind energy. The proposal faces opposition from Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a longtime critic of federal support for wind.

Also tomorrow, senators will vote on an amendment by Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to steer $50 million toward Lake Mead, to be followed by a vote on a proposal by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to cut $69 million from the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction account.

Senate leaders are looking to wrap up the energy and water bill early in the week so they can move on to another spending plan. The $56.5 billion Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) measure is one possible candidate. That bill sailed through committee last week (E&ENews PM, April 21).

Both parties are cautiously optimistic they can continue processing the 12 spending bills through regular order, a primary goal for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell has said he wants to spend the next 12 weeks on appropriations.

Last week’s first foray into the annual spending debate proceeded relatively smoothly, particularly because Alexander kept controversial riders out of the energy and water bill, which funds the Department of Energy, the Army Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Controversial riders have surfaced on the floor, including North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven’s latest attempt at defunding U.S. EPA’s joint rule with the Army Corps on the Clean Water Act’s reach. The measure fell short of the 60-vote threshold last week (Greenwire, April 21).

Senators also turned back a Republican effort to end the Energy Department’s advanced technology vehicles manufacturing program. Cuts to the program are a proposed offset to an aid package for Flint, Mich.

The chamber voted 76-19 for an amendment offered by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) that would boost funds for tribal loan guarantees by $9 million (E&ENews PM, April 21).

There’s other controversial amendments in the queue as well, including a handful from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to bar funds for DOE’s renewable energy and fossil fuel research efforts and to strip funds for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Last week, senators adopted an amendment to increase spending for ARPA-E by more than $30 million (E&E Daily, April 21).

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a bipartisan amendment to say climate change is real and that “human activity contributes to climate change” (E&ENews PM, April 22). Democrats have pushed for similar votes in previous major bills.

It’s unclear how many additional amendments will see votes, but Alexander and subcommittee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last week said they expected to be finished with the bill early in the week.