Senate to Vote on Climate Amendments Seeking to Put Republicans on Record

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By Ari Natter

Jan. 20 — The Senate is slated to vote as soon as Jan. 21 on a pair of amendments that seeks to put Republicans on the record about climate change.

Both climate amendments by Sens. Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) call on Congress to recognize the scientific link between climate change and human activity and seek to make Republicans take tough votes ahead of the 2016 election cycle.

“It is the sense of Congress that climate change is real and not a hoax,” reads the one-page Whitehouse amendment.

Schatz's amendment offers a sense of the Senate amendment that the U.S. should take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other nations to do the same.

“This is a vote and I think it will show which side of the climate facts people are on,” Schatz told Bloomberg BNA.

The amendments come as opponents of the legislation (S. 1), which would bypass the Obama administration to approve the $8 billion pipeline to carry crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf Coast, seek to cast supporters of the project as anti-environment, arguing that oil produced from tar sands creates more carbon emissions than oil from conventional sources. President Barack Obama has issued a veto threat for the legislation, which was passed by the House on a 266-153 vote on Jan. 9.

Democrat Amendments Voted Down

Earlier Jan. 20, the Senate voted down Democrat amendments to the bill that would have required the pipeline to be built with domestically produced steel and require the that oil and refined products from the pipeline be used in the U.S.

The amendment seeking export restrictions related to the pipeline by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was tabled by a vote of 57-41. The amendment that would have required construction materials used for the pipeline be made in America was tabled by a vote of 53-46.

The chamber voted 94-5 to adopt an amendment by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that represented a slimmed-down version of long-stalled legislation he had introduced with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

The bill, the The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, includes measures passed in the House in the 113th Congress that would loosen energy efficiency standards for grid-enabled water heaters and promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

A provision of the bill designed to increase energy efficiency in government data centers was stricken from the amendment after the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would have cost taxpayers money, Shaheen told Bloomberg BNA.

“I hope the President reconsiders his veto threat of the Keystone pipeline legislation as we continue to strengthen this already commonsense bill with provisions that have bipartisan, bicameral support,” Portman said in a statement.

Vote to End Pet Coke Exemption

In addition to the climate change amendments, the Senate is also expected to take up an amendment by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) that would require the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation, to develop regulation for the safe transport of the petroleum coke—a by-product of the oil refining process commonly referred to a pet coke.

“There's a current exemption of pet coke from environmental laws,” Durbin said on the Senate floor. “When you think of all the things blowing in the air, how in the word did pet coke end up being treated like fairy dust?”

Three Republican amendments are also expected to a vote, they include an amendment by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to place limits on the designation of federally protected lands, and an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would alter how litigation costs under the Endangered Species Act could be awarded.

In addition, an amendment by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) would exempt coal waste power plants from portions of two EPA regulations: the Cross State Air Pollution Rule and the Utility MACT Rule.

“If the regs go into effect, the plants close, then waste piles remain and continue to degrade water and air quality and event endanger public health,” according to a summary of the amendment provided by Toomey's office.

—With assistance from Anthony Adragna

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at