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The Details on Reid’s Energy Bill

Senate aides, in a background briefing today, laid out a number of the provisions that will be included in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) energy and oil spill response legislation.

A quick rundown of the bill’s contents:

  • Removal of the current $75 million liability cap on economic damages from an oil spill
  • A title to incentivize the production of electric and natural gas vehicles
  • The so-called HomeStar bill, which will provide incentives to make homes more energy efficient
  • A title that will assist the Department of the Interior in restructuring its drilling oversight mechanisms
  • A drastic increase in the per-barrel oil tax that feeds the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which can pay for economic damages resulting from an oil spill

Two details to take note of: the liability provision will apply retroactively to the BP spill, and the exact per-barrel tax increase has yet to be determined.

Missing from the bill is a renewable energy standard. Renewable energy advocates and environmentalists have been pushing for the inclusion of a renewables mandate in recent weeks, but Reid has said the votes are not there to pass such a measure.

Asked why an RES was not included in the bill, a spokesman for Reid said the lawmaker “believes that in light of the Republican stalling tactic, this bill has the best chance possible of getting out of the Senate” because it is “a small, targeted package.” The spokesman also pointed to time constraints, noting the impending August recess.

While Senate aides said the Congressional Budget Office was finishing its review of the legislation, a bill should be introduced later today. A Senate aide said Reid would like to bring the bill to the floor later this week and hopes for a vote early next week.

The bill is expected to cost $15 billion. The cost will be offset by the increase in the per-barrel fee on oil that makes up the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. As I noted above, that number has yet to be determined, but an early draft of the bill increased the number from 8 cents to 49 cents.

Here’s a 24-page “draft” summary of the bill. Senate aides warn that details of the bill are still up in the air.

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