Advocates of an energy-efficiency bill in Congress are hopeful the measure can pass both chambers sometime this year.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 8 approved S.761 by a voice vote. However, three GOP senators said they wanted to go on the record as voting against the measure. At the meeting, ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said, "It's encouraging to see senators from both sides of the aisle coming together to work on bipartisan energy legislation." Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) added, "To anybody who calls this low-hanging fruit, I'd say, to me, it looks pretty ripe for a gridlocked Congress."

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would strengthen national model building codes, create a Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Financing Initiative to encourage private investment in building efficiency upgrades and allow federal agencies to take advantage of existing funding to use the most current building efficiency standards for new federal buildings. A slightly different bill was approved by the Senate energy committee in 2011 but failed to pass the Senate. A companion measure has been introduced in the House.

The committee approved the bill with no amendments. But lawmakers said they intended to offer amendments when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Andrew Goldberg, the American Institute of Architect's managing director of government relations, said AIA is concerned lawmakers may attempt to offer an amendment that would weaken or outright repeal a provision of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requiring federal agencies to phase out greenhouse-gas-emitting power sources in newly built or renovated buildings by 2030. Still, energy-efficiency advocates are hopeful. "It's a very good bill," Goldberg notes. Rob Mosher, director of government relations for the Alliance to Save Energy, adds, "I think the [bill's] prospects are very good."


This article was updated on 5/20/13 to correct the spelling of Jeanne Shaheen's name.