Previewing the Floor Debate on Reid’s Energy Bill

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

An environmentalist closely involved in Senate energy bill negotiations told TWI that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s energy and oil spill response bill might not pass until September, given the short time frame before the August recess.

“I think it’s unclear whether any of this energy bill can pass before the August break. It wouldn’t surprise me if they begin debate and then finish in September,” the environmentalist said.

As for a renewable energy standard, which would require that a certain percentage of the country’s electricity come from renewable sources like wind and solar, the votes aren’t there yet. “It’s going to need the public support of several more Republican senators in order to have a chance at passage,” the environmentalist said, noting that possible Republican “yes” votes on an RES include Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snow (Maine) and George LeMieux (Fla.). Sen. Sam Brownback (Kans.) is the only Republican to announce that he would support inclusion of an RES in the bill.

But the environmentalist also said it’s likely that Reid will restrict floor amendments to expedite debate on the bill. “I think it’s fairly likely amendments will be restricted. Otherwise it’s going to turn into a three week debate, even though it doesn’t cover that much,” the environmentalist said.

The Reid bill, even without an RES or a cap on carbon, will have its fair share of controversial provisions. The most controversial, according to the environmentalist, will be efforts to remove the liability cap on economic damages from an oil spill, provisions that are in both the House and Senate oil spill response bills. “The biggest fight is going to be whether or not there’s a cap on liability for oil companies that have big disasters like BP did,” the environmentalist said.

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