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What to Expect on Energy from the Senate

With Congress returning this week, I thought it would be a good time to do a quick overview of what to expect on energy and environmental legislation.

The short answer: not much.

The long answer: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at his National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas last week that it could be possible to move a significantly scaled-back energy bill before the November mid-term elections. The bill would include incentives for natural gas vehicles, and provisions to help make homes more energy efficient.

In addition, there is oil spill response legislation, which has already passed the House. In the Senate, Republicans and some Democrats opposed provisions requiring the company responsible for an oil spill to be fully liable for the spill’s economic damages. Lawmakers — including Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — are still working on a liability compromise. A Senate aide tells TWI, “If we are able to get the 60 votes to move forward, there is a chance to do it this work period, but it is more likely to come up during a lame duck session.”

On top of that, renewable energy advocates have been lobbying for passage this year of a renewable energy standard, which would require that a certain percentage of the country’s electricity come from sources like wind and solar. Reid has said he’s open to the provision. The question going forward is: Can an RES get the 60 votes necessary for passage? Renewable energy advocates say it can.

Climate legislation with a cap on carbon emissions — even a slimmed down utility-only cap — is, by almost all accounts, dead this year.

As always in the Senate, the time frame for passage of an energy bill and/or oil spill response bill is unclear. With the mid-term elections looming, it seems unlikely that the Senate will be able to get much accomplished before November. That leaves a lame-duck session to try to pass something.

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