Legislation As a Team Sport: Can Shaheen-Portman Score a Win?

Blog Post | February 27, 2014 - 9:02 am
By Lowell Ungar, Senior Policy Advisor

In the Winter Olympics that just concluded in Sochi we saw amazing examples of coordination and synchronization in event after event, from bobsled to ice hockey to pairs figure skating. Unfortunately, we seldom see this kind of cooperation on display these days in Congress. Too often it seems like every member is heading in a different direction, and the sled goes nowhere.

But lately there’s been some promising action. Energy efficiency is the ideal event for witnessing the skill of bipartisanship, and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are Olympic champions. Even when the political parties are far apart on the direction our country should take, they can skate together for energy efficiency, joining in support of lower utility bills, domestic jobs, more reliable energy, and cleaner air.

Last spring Shaheen and Portman reintroduced their bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act to improve energy efficiency in homes and commercial buildings, provide more training for green jobs, streamline government programs for industrial efficiency, and reduce energy waste in federal buildings. With support from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the bill sped through the Senate Energy Committee by a vote of 19-3, but it hit a barrier on the Senate floor.

Now Shaheen and Portman have executed another perfect jump in unison. Today they added a bunch of amendments to their bill to increase savings, address concerns, and build even more bipartisan support. New provisions include:

  • The SAVE Act from Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) to consider energy efficiency savings in underwriting mortgages,
  • The Better Buildings Act from Senators Bennet and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to help tenants in commercial buildings save energy, and
  • The Energy Efficient Government Technology Act from Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and James Risch (R-ID) to reduce energy use in government data centers.

The bill now also includes measures to address concerns about current law from Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) on federal building requirements, Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) on ENERGY STAR® testing, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) on equipment certification, and more. Do you hear the bipartisan anthem?

In a new fact sheet, ACEEE estimates that the revised bill would support more than 190,000 added net jobs in 2030, achieve 12 quads of cumulative energy savings through 2030, save consumers almost $100 billion over that time period, and cut carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 by as much as taking about 22 million cars and light trucks off the road.

Even the House of Representatives, another slushy arena, is getting into the groove. The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently passed, by voice vote, the Better Buildings Act, sponsored on the House side by Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT), and has hinted there is more to come.

With so much team support, and so much at stake, it is time to charge for the finish line, pass Shaheen-Portman in the Senate, and conference it with the House bills. Then, we’ll all be winners.