The last time major energy reform made it across the finish line it was 2007. Gas was $2.81 per gallon, Britney Spears kicked off her historic breakdown, and the iPhone was released. That's right, the iPhone had just entered our consciousness.
Since that time, U.S. energy production has changed dramatically. Wind and solar electricity now compose 15% of non-fossil electricity generation. Coal is still the largest share of U.S. electricity generation, but last year coal production declined by 11% — the largest decline ever recorded. U.S. electricity sales continue to decline each year as homes become more energy efficient and solar power becomes more popular.
These significant energy changes have not gone unnoticed by Congress. This week the Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012). The bipartisan energy bill is spearheaded by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell [D, WA]. The comprehensive legislation is aimed at updating the nation's power grid and oil and gas transportation systems.
The bill would*:
Require electric grid operators to perform major upgrades, including building a new large-scale storage system for electricity
Define hydropower as renewable resource and streamline permits fornew hydropower projects
Allow Secretary of Energy to create rebate programs to encourage the replacement of inefficient motors and transformers and provide grants for students to complete skills-training programs that promote the installation of energy efficient building technologies
Repeals the phase-out of fossil fuel use in federal buildings by 2030 (put in place by Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007)
Require permit decisions on liquefied natural gas export facilities to be made within 45 days of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review
Direct the heads of federal agencies to reduce their building energy intensity by 2.5% per year, through 2025
The bill’s been stalled since February over funding disputes for Flint, Michigan. Initially, Democrats pushed to include $600 million in federal aid and refused to debate a package that did not include it. However, last week Democrats chose to drop the Flint provisions, allowing the Senate to finish up work and pass the legislation 85-12.
“Obviously, people in Flint still can’t drink the water and still can’t function as a community. So we’re not stopping. We’re just choosing to take another path,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow [D, MI].
The Senate passed 29 amendments on Tuesday, including a measure to include energy efficiency into federal mortgage valuations.
Now the bill heads to the House — weigh in now in support or opposition!
Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.