Democratic News

The Senate late Thursday (1/23/03) wrapped up work on the FY03 omnibus approps bill, which now heads into a conference with the House. For those of you keeping score, we count four pieces in the Senate-passed bill that have a tie to energy policy: 1. Amendment #126 permanently authorizes the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, requires the reserve be filled to 700 million barrels (or its current capacity) and makes a necessary technical fix for the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve Program. This amendment incorporates the exact language that was agreed to last fall by House and Senate conferees on H.R. 4., the comprehensive energy bill. 2. Amendment #245 reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act, due to expire in 2004, and, except for minor conforming changes, also is identical to the Price-Anderson provision that was agreed to in the abandoned energy conference report. Price-Anderson is the statute which provides liability insurance for government contractors and utilities in the event of a nuclear accident. 3. Amendment #27 restores funding for the popular Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps needy people pay the heating and cooling bills. This amendment would make $300 million in emergency funding available to states this year. (Coincidentally, within 48 hours of the Senate raising the topic, the Administration decided today to release at least part of this money.) 4. Amendment #34 extends an additional $700 million in borrowing authority to the Bonneville Power Administration. This language is identical to what was included in the electricity title of the Senate-passed energy bill, except that the total was reduced from $1.3 billion to $700 million, consistent with the President's FY03 budget request.