Senate backers of 11th-hour push on renewable power mandate predict victory

A bipartisan group of senators leading a revived effort for Senate approval of a renewable power mandate this year predicted victory Tuesday.

“The beauty of this is it’s not cap-and-trade,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) told reporters. “It’s a responsible — it’s a bipartisan — approach.”

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Brownback stood alongside Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and others at a media event introducing a renewable electricity standard (RES) that, aside from a few technical changes, echoes a mandate Bingaman’s panel approved as part of a larger energy strategy last year.

It would require electricity companies to produce 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and a list of other green sources by 2021. A quarter of that mandate could be met through energy efficiency activities, also echoing last year’s version on Bingaman’s panel.

The plan is to gain enough support to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to move it during a post-election lame-duck session. “We are not in a position to urge that yet,” Bingaman said. He said they need a little more time to “demonstrate the support that many of us think is there.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Tuesday she would not vote for a renewable electricity standard (RES) unless offshore oil-and-gas drilling is allowed to move forward.

The mandate was considered all-but-dead before a recent marketing and advocacy blitz by environmentalists, renewable energy groups and other supporters. Reid recently reversed course and said the measure has a chance to come up during a lame-duck session.

Brownback was one of only three Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources panel — along with then-ranking member Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) — who supported the energy package that included the RES last year. Corker Tuesday said he will not support the RES by itself and Murkowski’s spokesman has said she is unlikely to do so either.

The RES “was one of the pieces that I disliked the most,” Corker told The Hill. “To bring it up on its own would not be a good plan in my opinion and it is certainly not something I could support.” He said a standard should give credit to existing nuclear power and hydroelectric generation.


Brownback is one of three Republicans – along with Susan Collins of Maine and John Ensign of Nevada – who are cosponsoring the stand-alone bill so far. Nevada – home state to Reid – has strong solar and geothermal production.

Reid has said an RES may be considered as part of a lame-duck session. He is not yet cosponsoring the bill introduced Tuesday. Other original cosponsors are Democrats Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.).

Brownback said he is working to attract more Republican support. That may be contingent on whether Reid makes a move to “fill up the tree” and not allow any amendments to be offered to the measure.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday said he would support an RES but only if amendments are allowed to be offered.

"If [Reid] is going to fill the tree then I am not going to vote for cloture," Grassley said.

Brownback’s support for the RES without amendments being allowed depends on whether Reid “loads it with anything else,” he said. “People can’t get cute with this,” he said. 

Ben Geman contributed to this article.

This post initially incorrectly identified Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) as an original co-sponsor of the new legislation. She has her own RES bill.