Democratic News

Finally, the Senate stitched together consecutive days on the energy bill. So far, we’ve gone through 50 percent of the time that leadership says we will have on the bill this month -- yet have just two completed first degree amendments (ethanol and LIHEAP) to show for it. Part of that is the inherent difficulty of legislating energy, but GOP leadership hopped off the bill twice to debate a defense bill and a tax bill, taking time away from energy. This perspective is helpful, in case you hear anyone with the temerity to claim that not enough progress is being made on the bill, and that what is needed is a way to limit the offering of additional first degree amendments (through so-called finite lists or filing deadlines). Glancing back, this week the Senate: -- Finished the first round of ethanol amendments and added a Renewable Fuel Standard to the energy bill. -- Adopted a Bingaman amendment that turned back an attempt to keep LIHEAP funding out of the energy bill. This program helps poor people pay their heating bills in the winter and cooling bills in the summer and has always been an important part of energy policy. -- Previewed an amendment that Bingaman and Inouye will offer to bring balance to the one-sided hydroelectric relicensing provision included in S. 14. This section is unfair because it cuts tribes, states, consumer groups and other third parties out of relicensing proceedings; includes new appeal procedures that will result in new delays to a process that already is lengthy and complex; and undermines environmental protection. -- Heard debate on a Wyden-Sununu amendment to strike a provision in the underlying bill that would require taxpayers to provide unprecedented government subsidies to assist the nuclear industry in building six new power plants. That amendment is expected to be offered on Tuesday. -- Saw introduction of an amendment (#864) to the Indian Energy title. Though this amendment sounds good, it does not correct a flaw in the title that opens a new loophole for Indian energy projects that 1) cuts out the public and environmental analyses of specific projects and 2) waters down the traditional trust responsibility of the federal government to Indian tribes. Look for Bingaman and Inouye to second degree this amendment with one addressing the lack of in-depth environmental review and the diminishment of trust responsibility. Looking to next week, we do not see many non-energy things on the horizon to intrude on our time. We do see a variety of people who want to offer amendments. In addition to those noted over, we know that Dorgan is intending to offer a hydrogen fuel cell amendment that would direct the Energy Department to develop a strategy to get fuel-cell vehicles out of the labs and onto the streets. Among the Big Items yet too be addressed are an assortment of amendments related to the topic of electricity … RPS is still out there as an issue … Climate Change is a large and very complex issue that has yet to come up … a number of OCS amendments are drafting … and so on. The Senate will be back in session on Monday at 12 noon, in Morning Business. At 1:00 p.m. it will resume consideration of S. 14. Debate on a judicial nominee begins at 5:15 p.m., with a confirmation vote scheduled at 5:45 p.m. No votes on the energy bill are expected Monday.