SPECIAL UPDATE: Senate Debates the Energy Policy Act
This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's
(Note: Subsequently, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN)
and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) brokered a deal under which
this year's energy bill, S. 14, was traded for the bill that passed
the Senate last year during the previous Congress (S. 517) when Democrats
controlled the chamber. For more on the outcome of the Senate debate,
see an AGI special web update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_senatefinal.html.)
IN A NUTSHELL: With the House already in recess for August,
the Senate is spending a final week debating energy legislation. Nearly
400 amendments are being considered, and seven major issues have emerged:
corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards, climate change,
renewable portfolio standards, Indian energy development, hydropower
relicensing reform, tax incentives and electricity deregulation. If
the Senate reaches agreement on these issues and passes a bill, a
conference will then be held in the fall to work out differences with
the comprehensive energy bill, H.R. 6, passed by the House in April.
The Bush administration, which made energy policy a priority from
the outset, is eager to see Congress complete its work on this legislation.
With a number of key issues affecting geoscientists, the Senate debate
offers an opportunity to provide input at a crucial time.
Early in the current Bush administration, the president asked Vice
President Dick Cheney to assemble a task force and report on the state
of energy policy in America. The task force made more than 100 recommendations
in the presidents National Energy Policy (http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/).
Most of these recommendations could be carried out by executive orders
and federal agency actions, but the most far-reaching of them required
congressional action. Over the past two years, the House and Senate
have each passed their own version of comprehensive energy legislation;
however, since they have failed to reach an overall agreement, no
energy bill has become law.
In the 108th Congress, the House passed its version, H.R. 6, on April
11th. Their work on this issue done, the House has recessed until
September, but the Senate is spending a final week of floor debate
on S. 14, the Energy Policy Act of 2003. Introduced by Sen. Pete Domenici
(R-NM), S. 14 passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
which he chairs, by a vote of 13-10 on April 30th. The committee hearings
and mark-up on this legislation were less bitter and divided along
partisan lines than those of previous years because Chairman Domenici
decided that the committee would leave several of the most contentious
issues to be hashed out on the Senate floor.
Reflecting the contentiousness that surrounds this issue, there are
currently 392 amendments proposed for S. 14. Of that total, energy
committee staff director Alex Flint told E&E Daily, there
are only "70 to 100 real amendments" and seven major issues
that must be debated. Those seven are corporate average fuel economy
(CAFÉ) standards, climate change, renewable portfolio standards,
Indian energy development, hydropower relicensing reform, tax incentives
and electricity deregulation. Several of these issues have potential
impacts on the geoscience community:
- CAFÉ standards were hotly debated on the Senate floor last
year and, ultimately, the Senate did not decide to improve the standards
but instead asked the Department of Transportation to study the
issue and propose new standards. There are several amendments that
will address this issue.
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) attempted to address the climate change
issue during the committee mark-up by introducing an amendment on
carbon sequestration, but withdrew it on the urging of Domenici.
According to E&E Daily, Wyden criticized the committee for "ducking"
climate change in favor of quick committee passage and vowed to
re-propose the amendment on the Senate floor. His amendment is one
of several on this topic.
- Renewable Portfolio Standards ensure that all energy marketers
have a certain percentage of renewable energy sources in their mix.
This approach could encourage expanded geothermal energy production
and hence exploration for geothermal energy resources.
- The tax incentives vary in type, scope and amount. The Senate
is again looking to strike a balance between measures promoting
fossil fuel production, nuclear power, energy efficiency and alternative
(including renewable) fuels.
A wrap-up of last year's Senate debate on these major issues can
be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy_update0502.html.
For an overview on energy policy developments in the current Congress,
And for additional perspective on the energy policy debate, see the
May 2003 Geotimes Political Scene column "Congress Takes
Another Stab at Energy Legislation" at http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/may03/scene.html.
The text of S. 14 can be viewed on the Library of Congress's Thomas
web site at
and a list of amendments under consideration is at
In addition, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is
maintaining a web page with a fairly updated list of amendments and
additional information on the bill at http://energy.senate.gov/legislation/energybill2003/energybill2003.cfm.
Typically, at this point in the legislative process, the major negotiations
on a particular bill and its provisions have already taken place and
the bill is going to the floor for a yes-or-no vote. However, with
S. 14, the biggest issues will be decided on the floor and the bill
will take shape over the next few days. This unusual situation gives
constituents an additional, some would say golden, opportunity to
affect the process. Please call, fax, or email your senators this
week to let them know your opinion about the pending energy legislation
or any of the proposed amendments.
The U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 will connect you to your
senators office. E-mail addresses can be found at
If you have any questions that we can help with, please contact Emily
Lehr at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703
379 2480 x212.
Update prepared by Emily M. Lehr and David Applegate, AGI Government
Sources: Congressional Research Service, Environment & Energy
Daily, Green-energy.org, National Journal Group, Inc.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted July 28, 2003; Revised August 18, 2003