Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Funding the Government through Early December

Before returning home to their constituents, Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, a Continuing Resolution (H.R.5325), which provides funding for Federal government programs through December 9, 2016 at approximately the same levels as Fiscal Year 2016, which ended September 30. Full-year funding was also provided through this bill for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

Members of Congress will need to decide how they want to proceed on funding the government through the remainder of FY 2017 when they return for their post-election lame duck session during the week of October 14. A likely scenario is the combination of the remaining 11 appropriations bills into a single omnibus funding measure, rather than a year-long Continuing Resolution.

HPBC Hits Capitol Hill for Hill Day and Briefing

Members of the High Performance Building Coalition (HPBC) traveled to Capitol Hill on April 21st for a day of meetings with High Performance Building Caucus member offices and a lunch briefing on the importance of funding key federal programs related to high performance buildings.

A dozen HPBC members broke up into groups to meet with 17 High Performance Building Caucus member offices throughout the day to speak about the important work that the HPBC is doing, as well as to discuss our policy and appropriations priorities. In particular, as the House and Senate begin conference discussions to harmonize various provisions of the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012) and the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 8), the HPBC asked that our policy priorities that were originally included in one or both pieces of legislation be included in the final conference version, including:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Program, a voluntary program to help consumers identify water-efficient products and services;
  • The Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability Act (NEWS Act), which would better coordinate federal energy and water programs; and
  • The Sensible Accounting to Value Energy Act (SAVE Act), which would improve the accuracy of mortgage underwriting by including the value of energy efficiency in a home.

During the lunch briefing, attendees hear from Kevin Kampschroer, Director of the Office of High Performance Green Buildings at the U.S. General Services Administration, on the many programs that GSA is implementing to improve the performance of federal buildings across the country. Next, John Pouland, Vice President of Government Affairs and Solutions at Philips Lighting, spoke about the importance of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and in particular the Solid State Lighting research and development work that it supports. Finally, the audience heard from Christopher Lindsay, Manager of Government Relations at the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), about important water and energy programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) funding, and the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool for benchmarking the energy performance of buildings.

The High Performance Building Coalition will continue to remain active on Capitol Hill to promote its policy and appropriations priorities throughout the remainder of the 114th Congress and into the 115th Congress. Please visit our website regularly for policy updates, as well as information about High Performance Building Week, June 13–17, 2016.

Senate Passes Comprehensive Energy Bill, Opening the Door for Possible New Law this Year

As a reminder that virtually anything can occur in Washington, DC at any time, on April 20 the US Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S.2012) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 85 to 12. Senators voting against the bill included: John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Cotton (R-AR), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), David Perdue (R-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Patrick Toomey (R-PA).

The Energy Policy Modernization Act is a comprehensive bill that includes many provisions, such as:

  • Support for building energy codes
  • The SAVE Act
  • Allowing Federal disaster relief funds to be used for energy efficient structures and products (references Standard 90.1-2013)
  • Formally establishing the WaterSense program
  • Increases interagency coordination of activities related to the energy-water nexus
  • Support for data center energy efficiency
  • Reauthorization of the Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program
  • Workforce development, including the establishment of building training and assessment centers

The next challenge is for the Senate bill to be combined with the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R.8), which passed the House last December, and contains a number of controversial provisions. The final combined bill would then be voted on once more by the House and Senate before going to President Barack Obama for his signature or veto.

The long path left have some nervous that not enough time remains this year to get everything done, which would force the entire process to start over, with the added complication of a new President and Members of Congress, and the possibility that both bills could be completely derailed.

Curiously Uncertain Future for Senate Comprehensive Energy Bill

The Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) of 2015 (S.2012) is the comprehensive bipartisan bill that is supported by most members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee – including the Committee’s top Republican and Democrat. Additionally, because the many parts of EMPA have been working their way through Congress for the past several years, the attitudes of Members of Congress towards the bill are generally well-known. Despite all of this, the bills’ fate remains unclear – for the moment.

According to Senate staff, given the anticipated congressional calendar and likely need to address other unforeseen events, the best time for EPMA to be debated and possibly passed is between January and early February. This is a unique window in which Members of Congress are in Washington, DC for an extended period of time with nothing definitely scheduled yet for the Senate floor. The schedule will solidify over the next two weeks.

If EPMA is debated on the Senate floor, it will likely occur under an open amendment process, which could either allow Members of Congress to voice their concerns and add favored provisions to it or grind consideration of the bill to a halt. While surprises do occur, if EPMA is derailed in January-February, it’s unlikely to be taken up again until 2017.


Congressional Democrats, Republicans to Plan Strategy at January Retreats

House and Senate Republicans will gather in Baltimore, Maryland this week for a retreat where they will piece together the major portions of their 2016 legislative agenda. Issues that are expected to be in the spotlight include: federal spending, tax reform, healthcare, climate change, gun control, and energy policy.

Democrats will hold their own retreat from January 27 to 29, where they will discuss their own legislative priorities.

The 2016 legislative calendar is expected be front-loaded and packed with a dense amount of activity – although perhaps little legislation being enacted into law given the politics of the moment and upcoming elections. Energy legislation, budget, appropriations, FAA reauthorization, and the National Defense Authorization Act are among the issues that are, at this point, expected to dominate House and Senate floor time.