House, Senate still at odds over policy

August 1, 2005 By    

Conferees are trying to iron out differences in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed by each House.

 Charles Pekow
Charles Pekow

The Senate version emphasizes consumer education about energy efficiency and would require the Department of Energy to convene a conference to create a National Public Energy Education Program. It would fund a $90 million a year Energy Efficiency Public Information Initiative, which would include an advertising and media campaign on reducing energy consumption. It also would give the Federal Trade Commission three months to study to what degree energy efficiency labeling influences consumers.

A $5 million annual Low Income Community Energy Efficiency Pilot Program would provide grants to three to seven states each year to coordinate energy efficiency and reduction programs.

The Senate measure contains many of the same provisions as the House bill, including $1.2 billion for weatherization over three years and $250 million for an Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program.

Both bills would also start a HVAC Maintenance Consumer Education Program, in which the Department of Energy, Small Business Administration and Environmental Protection Agency would jointly educate consumers and small businesses on properly maintaining air control.

The Senate also approved an energy appropriations bill for 2006 with $240 million for weatherization, $15 million above the president’s request. The total includes $4.6 million for training and technical assistance, $41 million for state energy program grants, $500,000 for state energy aactivities, $350,000 for energy efficiency information and outreach, and $5.8 million for the Energy Star Program.

Meanwhile, the House approved an appropriations bill for 2006 with $2 billion for LIHEAP, $186 million above the president’s request and $100 million more than 2005 for the general fund. Unlike previous years, the appropriation doesn’t reserve any funds for emergencies.

Briefly Speaking

Notes from Capitol Hill

  • Emergency act introduced

Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced the Pipeline Safety Emergency Notification Act to require anyone involved in demolition, excavation, tunneling or construction near a pipeline to report damage.

The bill was referred to the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways, Transit & Pipelines and the Committee on Energy & Commerce.

  • Compliance date delayed

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has delayed the compliance date for most rules regarding Harmonization with the United Nations Recommendations concerning international hazmat transit. The deadline shifted from June 14 to Jan. 1, 2006.

  • Hazmat rules modified

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also modified several hazmat rules designed to reduce regulatory burdens. It will allow the military to use its own hazmat regulations, for instance. PHMSA also modified rules for packaging cylinders.

  • Feds focused on energy

Even without a national energy bill, the federal government heavily involves itself in energy policy.

The Government Accountability Office counted more than 150 energy programs plus 12 tax preferences involving everything from supply, the environment, assistance to low-income households, etc.

In 2003, the federal government spent $9.8 billion on energy-related programs and gave about $4.4 billion in tax preferences. It also collected about $10 billion in energy taxes, fees and royalties.

  • DOT funding for FY06

The House approved a 2006 funding bill for the Department of Transportation that would allow the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to hire eight new members, with $198,000 earmarked for improving electronic communications.

The bill would give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration $1.8 million to examine its regulations and effectiveness.

FMCSA also would get $500,000 to encourage commercial drivers to use safety belts and $6.8 million for the Commercial Vehicle Analysis Reporting System to collect and examine crash data.

The National Motor Carrier Safety Program would get $286 million for its projects.

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