Murkowski: Energy efficiency bill will advance on Capitol Hill

The Senate could take up energy efficiency legislation once it finishes debating immigration policy even though more comprehensive bills aren’t moving any time soon, a top Republican predicted Wednesday.

“I do believe you will see an energy bill get to the floor, and I believe it will be very shortly,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said during a Bipartisan Policy Center event on U.S. oil production.

The likely candidate is legislation drafted by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio that would force federal agencies to winnow their power use while creating a separate state-based program to help finance energy efficiency changes in buildings. The bill also would encourage new, more energy-efficient building codes.

The measure is bipartisan and well-liked; similar legislation won the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s approval last year by a vote of 18-3. But that doesn’t mean it will sail through the Senate.

Instead, supporters are worried the measure will become a magnet for loosely related proposals on such divisive issues as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and climate change. The risk is that the otherwise popular energy efficiency bill could sink if it is weighed down by provisions on such polarizing topics.

Murkowski said she and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are strategizing ways to navigate the bill through the panel.

“Sens. Portman and Shaheen have worked well to build an energy efficiency bill that is a good, strong bill,” Murkowski said. “What we need to do is nail down the universe of amendments that we can present (and) basically have a game plan to go forward.”

The measure was approved by the panel in May, paving the way for the bill to hit the Senate floor this summer.

“Call me optimistic, because A, it’s good legislation, B it’s bipartisan, and C, it’s just the right thing to do to advance energy legislation,” Murkowski said. “It’s long overdue.”

But Murkowski said there is little chance for congressional action on broader, sweeping energy bills, like those that were enacted in 2005 and 2009. “What I don’t think you’ll see is a major package” or anything truly “comprehensive,” Murkowski said.