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Energy Reforms Threatened by Two "Poison Pills"

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The Shaheen-Portman energy bill has broad support across the political spectrum, but amendments could polarize supporters.

By Paula Melton

Proposed Energy Targets from Section 433 of EISA

Fed_Energy_Targets.jpg

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

A sweeping energy-efficiency bill soon to be on the U.S. Senate floor would help boost energy codes, finance retrofits, and support training programs for building tradespeople and professionals. But rumors of “poison pill” amendments are souring the process for green building advocates and could jeopardize the progress of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 761, cosponsored by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio).

Two amendments in the works

One rumored amendment would effectively shut the LEED rating systems out of the federal government by redefining what counts as a “consensus process” for governance and rating system development (read more about this amendment on our sister site, LEEDuser.com).

Another takes aim at the very heart of the last major energy law passed by Congress—attempting to repeal the part of the law that targets design for zero fossil fuel use in new and substantially renovated federal buildings by 2030.

Who or what is Section 433?

Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to set new efficiency standards for federal building designs; DOE is still in the process of setting these standards, and fossil-fuel interests have been lobbying for repeal of Section 433 for more than a year, arguing that the targets are unrealistic and asserting (falsely) that the provisions would eliminate all fossil fuels from federal buildings (PDF).

By pushing for its repeal now, advocates of the possible amendment may hope to prevent the imminent codification of the increasingly stringent energy-efficiency standards (see table). The nascent amendment reportedly has the backing of the natural gas industry, and sources say it could be introduced as early as this week by Senator John Hoeven (R–ND).

Current advocates may oppose

An open letter to Senators Shaheen and Portman released today by the American Institute of Architects, the National Fenestration Rating Council, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, and 12 other organizations states that “repealing section 433 not only goes against the spirit and intent of S. 761 but would be a significant setback in the effort to make the nation’s building stock more sustainable.” The signatories add, “Should language that repeals section 433 of EISA be included in S. 761, for the reasons listed above we would have no choice but to withdraw our support and endorsement for S. 761 and oppose the legislation.”

The American Gas Association, a past proponent of Section 433 repeal, did not return calls seeking comment.

UPDATE: Wording about Section 433 above has been corrected to better reflect language in the original Act.

Comments (1)

1 More to come posted by Paula Melton on 05/28/2013 at 12:49 pm

Senator Hoeven has released his proposed amendment as standalone legislation, and we've spoken with the American Gas Association as well. Watch for updated coverage of this developing story soon!

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June 3, 2013