It’s Alive! Senate Energy Bill Returns—But With More Problems for Our Environment

The Senate will once again attempt to pass S. 2012 the Energy Policy Modernization Act—as early as this Tuesday (4/19). Throughout the process, NRDC and other environmental groups have attempted to work with the Senate as the bill proceeded to improve it so that it would best advance the nation’s climate and clean energy goals while protecting the environment. While the make-up of the Senate that has made that task difficult, we have succeeded in keeping many harmful policy proposals off the bill.

Still the bill has a handful of provisions that could expand dirty energy and harm our environmentdiminishing (if not erasing) any gains provided by positive sections. These issues must be addressed and the harmful provisions removed before this bill becomes law.  We laid out these concerns, and why we can’t support the bill, in the letter linked below.

At the top of our list of concerns is a provision that would essentially throw out the scientific process for determining the carbon emissions from forest biomass. Instead, Congress attempts to decree that all biomass is carbon-neutral, the facts be damned. The science shows that forest biomass is nowhere close to being carbon neutral and even counting regrowth leaves carbon in the atmosphere for decades—too long to help address the climate change problem in the necessary timeframe. 

The bill also would greatly expand damaging research and development into methane hydrates, a source of natural gas that is frozen under the seafloor. Like fracking, methane hydrates require new extraction techniques that are environmentally damaging and could unlock a huge new source of fossil fuels at a time we should be transitioning away from them entirely.

The letter covers these concerns and more (e.g., furnace efficiency standards delay, funding for nuclear research, expanded CCS research, expedited project reviews, and hydropower relicensing). 

There are some good provisions in the bill worth protecting, including permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an important energy efficiency title, investments in renewable energy, expanded clean energy R&D and energy workforce development. However, without fixing the troubling provisions this bill could do more harm than good. 

As the letter states, we are ready to continue to work on the bill as it moves through the legislative process but we will vigorously oppose a final House-Senate bill if it would do damage to the environment. 

Letter signed by 10 organizations: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/letter-s2012-20160418.pdf

About the Authors

Marc Boom

Associate Director, Government Affairs

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