Senate may keep ‘green’ buildings provisions.
San Francisco Federal Building/Steve Proehl
Senate may keep ‘green’ buildings provisions..


The bill’s setback in the Senate came on Dec. 7, less than 24 hours after it cleared the House. Reid had proposed a motion to limit debate on the bill and thus put it on track to Senate passage. But he and his allies came up seven votes short of the 60 that Senate rules require for cloture.

As Reid’s team works to alter the bill, “The name of the game is to get to 60 [votes],” says Bill Wicker, spokesman for Senate energy committee Democrats. “Right now, they’re basically deciding which is the best road map to get them to the 60.”

That route may include dropping a House bill provision requiring utilities to obtain 15% of their electricity from wind or other renewable sources by 2020. Opponents aren’t mollified by House language letting companies get some of that 15% from energy-conservation steps.

Senate lawmakers also may trim tax provisions. “I think that they’re looking at what changes to the tax title could help them pick up seven votes,” Wicker says. Opponents especially want to see legislators delete proposed oil-company tax hikes, which House drafters used to offset revenue lost through the bill’s breaks for conservation and renewables. But the American Institute of Architects particularly wants to see the Senate keep the House tax package’s five-year extension of a deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings. That break is to lapse at the end of 2008.

If the Senate passes a new bill, it’s likely to retain some buildings-related House provisions. They may include a mandate that new or renovated federal buildings cut fossil-fuel consumption to zero in 2030 and language setting up “green buildings” offices at the Energy Dept. and General Services Administration. Andrew Goldberg, AIA senior director of federal affairs, says, “The bill really acknowledges the centrality of the built environment to this whole issue.”

The Senate also is expected to retain House language hiking the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard 40%, to 35 miles per gallon in 2020.

If the Senate does pass a rewritten energy bill, it would go back to the House for another vote.

fter the Senate blocked a House-passed energy bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is trying to rescue at least some of the measure’s major elements. Reid’s rewrite may delete the House bill’s renewable-electricity mandate for utilities and modify its $23-billion tax title. But it’s likely to retain the bill’s tighter auto-mileage requirement and provisions to make buildings more energy-efficient.