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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Amendments on Light Bulb Standards, Gas Exports Offered to Energy Appropriations Bill

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Light Bulbs Photo Credit Daniel Acker/Bloomberg  

The Energy Department would continue to be barred from enforcing energy efficiency standards for incandescent light bulbs under an amendment planned for energy and water appropriations legislation the House began considering July 9.

The amendment, by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) to the $34 billion fiscal year 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 4923), would continue a legal prohibition on the department using funds to enforce the requirements which apply to a range of bulbs.

While the measure is likely to face opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate, House Republicans have been successful in including similar language in must-pass government funding bills since it was included in an omnibus funding bill in 2011, Burgess told Bloomberg BNA.

The 2007 energy bill that was signed into law by President George W. Bush and created the standards, which require incandescent bulbs of 100, 75, 60 and 40 watts to use between 25 percent and 30 percent less energy, “was an overreach,” Burgess said.

“It was not necessary,” Burgess said of the requirements. “The marketplace should be able to sort this out. We should not be picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”

Light Bulb Manufacturers Plan Compliance

Light bulb manufacturers oppose the amendment, but have said they plan to comply with the efficiency standards whether they are enforced or not, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which represents companies such as Philips Lighting Co., GE Lighting, Cree Inc. and Osram Sylvania Inc.

“We have not changed our position opposing the amendment,” Phallan K. Davis, a spokeswoman for the Rosslyn, Va. –based trade group, told Bloomberg BNA. “DOE should have the funding to enforce and defend the statute.”

The amendment also is opposed by environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has said compliance with the light bulb standards will result in savings of nearly $13 billion a year, electricity savings equivalent to 30 large power plants and reduced carbon dioxide emissions of about 100 million tons of carbon a year.

“These companies have made major investments and thoroughly upgraded and retooled their supply chains to comply with the law,” the NRDC said in a July 7 blog post.

Seen as Government Overreach

Burgess and others who have come to see the requirements as symbols of government overreach complain the LED and compact fluorescent bulbs effectively required by the standards are too costly and don't give off the same quality of light.

“The people should have the option of buying the type of light bulb they want,” Burgess said.

The underlying bill provides $27.3 billion for the Energy Department and also would provide $5.5 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $1 billion for Interior Department programs and funding for several independent agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Other highlights of the bill include $205 million to continue the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility opposed by the Obama administration and a measure that would bar the Energy Department from imposing energy-efficiency rules on ceiling fans supported by the American Lighting Association.

Nuclear Funding Reduced

The bill is being considered on the House floor under an “open rule,” which allows lawmakers to offer amendments to the bill so long as they are germane.

Among the amendments that were approved was a measure by Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) that increased funding for the Army Corps of Engineers Operation and Maintenance account by $57.6 million and reduced the Energy Department's nuclear energy funding by $73.3 million.

That change, which was approved by a vote of 281-137, brings the total amount of funding for the department's nuclear energy program to $826 million.

Other amendments that have been filed to the bill include a measure by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would prohibit the Energy Department from applying an analysis of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions when considering whether to approve licenses to export liquefied natural gas to overseas nations.

Specifically, the amendment bars the Energy Department from using a new report, the “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States,” that the Energy Department said would be used to “inform its decisions” regarding greenhouse gases resulting from LNG exports for use in electric power generation, according to a summary of the amendment.

The analysis was included in changes to the way the Energy Department has proposed for how it considers applications to export LNG to non-free trade agreement countries announced in May.

Exports Subject to NEPA Review

“LNG export projects already go through extensive environmental impact analysis during the project's NEPA review,” Cassidy, who is in a competitive race for Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) Senate seat, said in floor remarks alluding to the National Environmental Policy Act. “This new report adds another layer of legal risk and uncertainty to an already burdensome and difficult process.”

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