Senators to revive energy efficiency bill

The Senate is expected to put its weight behind the Shaheen-Portman endeavor, which lawmakers in both chambers have presumed was coming for some time.

The Republican-controlled House will likely work on smaller bills, though House GOP aides haven't ruled out breaking down Shaheen-Portman, as it's known colloquially, to vote on it in piecemeal fashion. 

Insiders say Shaheen-Portman will largely mirror the comprehensive one the senators co-sponsored last session. That initiative got through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with broad support, but never made it to the floor.

If that’s the case, then the bill will focus on encouraging industrial energy efficiency upgrades through tax credits and state grant programs, research and development funding and more stringent efficiency standards for new building codes.

It also could prove ripe for absorbing President Obama’s proposal for a $200 million competitive state grant program designed to spur energy efficiency upgrades at industrial facilities.

Obama unveiled that plan, based on the “Race to the Top” program for education, during his February State of the Union address. Obama included it in the fiscal 2014 White House budget proposal, and his top climate adviser was shopping the idea to a group of House Democrats last week.

But Republicans will be wary of new spending programs and tax incentives that could grow more expensive with time. While that might not be as much of an issue in the Senate, it could become one in the House.

Shaheen-Portman’s backers contend last session’s versions contained enough offsets to render spending issues moot. Fiscal conservatives disagreed, citing a Congressional Budget Office report that said it would cost $2.2 billion to implement the bill between 2012 and 2016.