This post welcomes you back state side, with a nice hard landing. Hope you enjoyed your trip to paradise—given that it may be quite different the next time you decide to go—because it’s back to a U.S.-centric mindset as we return our eyes to the U.S. Senate. The Senate has been quite the hotbed of activity this week and last (shocking, I know)—and it will continue to be next week.
Unfortunately, the activity is not taking place with regard to my last post, Senator Bingaman’s long-awaited 246th attempt (at least, right?) at an energy standard. The action is taking place on another field—a field seemingly unrelated, or perhaps more tangentially related, to our beloved environment.
The Senate is debating a two-year reauthorization of the surface transportation act, which, among other things, provides a means of funding for the Highway Trust Fund, the means by which we support (or don’t) our roads and infrastructure. Just to make sure we’re on the same page, the House is—very unsuccessfully—trying to consider a five-year extension. What has this fund done for you lately? Not much. For one, anyone who drives can tell our roads are certainly in need of a massive facelift (start taking public transportation, fool). But, debate over this fund surprisingly has a lot to do with our beloved environment.
In bringing this bill forward for consideration on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is also conceding to consider 30 amendments. These amendments are jam-packed with issues that tug at our heartstrings. They include:
Expediting—by bypassing the president—approval of the Keystone XL pipeline—offered by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
Not allowing the oil carried by the pipeline to be exported—offered by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). This amendment would have also provided for an expeditious review of the pipeline and the assurance that it be constructed with parts made in the U.S.A.
Extension of the expired 106 Treasury Grant Program and other energy tax extenders—offered by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to revive the expired (as of last year) grant program that facilitated the development of numerous renewable (particularly solar) enterprises.
Simultaneously, a repeal of all energy tax provisions–offered by Senator Jim “Tea Party King” DeMint (R-SC).
Postponing implementation of the EPA’s Boiler MACT regulation—offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), this amendment would have given the EPA a 15-month extension to propose new “achievable” standards that were the “least burdensome.”
Expanding offshore drilling—offered by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). State affiliation plus hound dog status equals need I say more?
The legislation itself also includes a lovely subsidy (read: big, fat handout) to the tune of $109 million for natural gas development and the development of natural gas vehicles. Call it the T. Boone Pickens life support plan. All else fails, T. Boone, the U.S. Gov got yo’ back.
Fortunately, some of these amendments have already been defeated. The Collins amendment to postponed boiler MACT went down 52-46 (the amendment required 60 votes to pass); same for the Vitter amendment. Most notably, the persistent problem child, Keystone XL, rose from the dead only to be struck back down. The Keystone amendment needed 60 votes to pass; it only garnered 56. Note that 11 Democrats joined 46 Republicans in voting for the measure. Senator Wyden’s Keystone amendment also did not pass. For a full vote list from last week, see the roll call vote list.
While greens have been scoring big, we’ve got more challengers next week. Both Senator Stabenow and Senator DeMint’s amendments will be up for consideration next week. I’d like to say getting rid the Nat Gas provisions will be like a 5-12 upset, in that it actually has a good shot of happening, but I don’t think we’ll be that lucky amigos. Oh, and then there’s this—Republicans are promising that the persistent problem child will once again rise from the grave when the transportation bill, inevitably, goes to conference. Liken it to Duke telling UNC, “Y’all might have beat us on senior night, but you just wait for the moves we’ve got stored for the big dance… bitches.”
Suffice it to say Spinach lovers: your work week may be over, but this battle wages on. Next week, we will pick up with the to-be-continued episode of transportation-environment tango.