White House Indicates Veto Possible If Energy Bill Has ‘Unacceptable Riders'

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By Ari Natter  

May 5 --A White House official indicated May 5 that President Barack Obama would veto energy efficiency legislation slated for the Senate floor this week if Republicans succeed in attaching environmental riders deemed unacceptable to the administration.

The remarks of White House counselor John Podesta come as Senate Republicans seek amendments to S. 2262, including measures backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would limit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions from power plants.

“If it passes with unacceptable riders, it will be headed to the watery depths,” Podesta said during a White House briefing about the energy efficiency legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Congress has found “various ways, particularly in the House, to try to stop us from using the authority we have under the Clean Air Act,” Podesta said. “Those have zero percent chance of working.”

In floor remarks, McConnell said, “my constituents in Kentucky should be able to weigh in on an EPA rule that would negatively impact existing and future coal plants.”

He said, “Kentuckians deserve a say in ongoing regulatory efforts to tie up mining permits--and the red tape that's stifling the creation of good jobs in coal country.”

Other Amendments Sought

Other amendments that Republicans are seeking are one by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) requiring the Energy Department to approve liquefied natural gas exports to all World Trade Organization member countries and a measure by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) designed to impede congressional implementation of a carbon tax.

As of late May 5, Republican and Democratic leaders were still negotiating a deal concerning amendments that would be allowed to the bill, including ones that would provide incentives for energy savings and increase energy conservation in federal buildings. The action likely would be paired with a separate vote on legislation (S. 2280) that would approve the Keystone pipeline .

However, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated Republicans weren't going to get votes on their amendments, characterizing talks that occurred May 1.

“We'll see what happens this week,” Hoeven said.

Procedural Vote Likely

Reid scheduled a procedural vote on the Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill that is likely to occur May 6.

“I think you'll see we vote to proceed to the bill,” Hoeven said. “The issue is if we vote to get off the bill if we don't get some kind of agreement on those four amendments.”

The legislation, supported by energy-efficient lighting maker Cree Inc. and appliance maker Whirlpool Corp., would require the Energy Department to provide assistance to states adopting energy standards.

It also would require the development of new Tenant Star and Supply Star energy efficiency recognition programs and facilitate a third-party certification process within the existing Energy Star program.


With assistance from Andrea Vittorio in Washington

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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