Sponsor: Obstacles in path of Senate energy efficiency legislation

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Friday spelled out the two obstacles to getting her energy efficiency legislation moving: leadership interest and a potential free-for-all for partisan amendments.

“We haven’t had an energy bill on the floor in the Senate for a very long time. So everybody who wants to make a point, whether it’s about reducing the regulations through the EPA or passing the Keystone pipeline, would like to put their amendment on this legislation,” Shaheen said at a New England clean technology conference hosted by Google.

Shaheen added that Senate leadership is more concerned about other matters. The upper chamber passed a five-year farm bill earlier this month, unsuccessfully tried to move a gun control bill in April and is currently working on moving immigration legislation.

“There have been a couple of obstacles,” Shaheen said of getting her bill to the floor. “One has been the ability to for the leadership to feel like there’s urgency about getting this done.”

The legislation would encourage energy efficiency upgrades in homes, businesses and manufacturing facilities. It calls for creating a state-based private financing program, voluntary efficiency standards for new building codes and employing energy-saving practices at federal buildings, among other items.

The amendment issue, though, threatens to sink the bill, much as it did to a similar version last session.

While Shaheen and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who co-sponsors the effort, stripped some provisions that would have authorized federal loan guarantees and a revolving state grant program to appease fiscal conservatives, the amendment holdup appears as contentious as it did last year.

She and Portman are busy talking to their colleagues about the amendment issue in hopes of persuading them to keep potentially polarizing items shelved.

“Part of our challenge is trying to convince them that we can really get this done, and so that’s not productive as we’re trying to move an agenda,” she said.

But that hasn’t seemed to stop some lawmakers.

It could prove a magnet for bills regarding climate change or Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which would be politically divisive.

And Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) has expressed interest in adding an amendment to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently intimated such a measure might be relevant — which Portman viewed positively — though there’s been little indication that the logjam on getting the bill to the floor has broken.