11/06/14 :

Election 2014: Energy Efficiency a Bipartisan Sweet-Spot as Senate Flips

In an unexpected wave of victories, Republicans gained at least seven seats in the U.S. Senate and 10 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Election Day. Even though a few seats remain undecided, the Senate majority now rests solidly Republican hands, and the House boasts its largest number of Republicans since the 1920s.

While the election undoubtedly has huge implications, energy efficiency seems likely to remain a “sweet spot” for bi-partisan action in the energy policy arena. Energy efficiency has become and remains an important issue to both parties, with the Republican led House in the 113th Congress passing several energy efficiency bills, including H.R. 2126, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act.

Senate

Many of the emerging and returning leaders are energy efficiency champions. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will take the helm in 2015 as Senate Majority leader, has expressed support for the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (known as Shaheen-Portman); and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is set to chair the Energy Committee, is a co-sponsor of that legislation. Senator Murkowski has been an Honorary Vice-Chair of the Alliance for three years and has been a long-time supporter of energy efficiency. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the current Senate Energy Committee chair and a supporter of efficiency, is headed for a runoff with her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). If Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) does not prevail in her January run-off, the likely Ranking Member on the Energy Committee would be Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who has been supportive of efficiency legislation in the past.

On the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and David Vitter (R-LA) are competing to replace Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as chair. Both are proponents of traditional fuels and opening up public lands for natural resource development. Either will likely bring a massive shift in direction to that committee which has previously focused more on climate and conservation. Senator Boxer will likely become Ranking Member.

House

On the House side, we have already seen some leadership changes with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) taking over from Eric Cantor (R-VA) as Majority Leader. Neither McCarthy nor Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) have been publically supportive of energy efficiency legislation, however both embrace “all of the above” energy strategies. 

Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), who will continue as Chair of the Energy Committee, has been very supportive of energy efficiency, identifying it as one of the five pillars of his energy plan. Under his leadership, the House Energy Committee passed several energy efficiency bills out of committee to success on the House floor, and he remains committed to seeing those bills over the finish line. Similarly, Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Bobby Rush D-(IL) have been active in the efficiency space. Both voted for the passage of H.R. 2126. 

The change to watch will be the Ranking Member position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced his retirement this year, after 40 years of service. Mr. Waxman was a tireless advocate for climate policy, greenhouse gas reduction, renewables, and energy efficiency. Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) are competing to replace him as Ranking Member. Eschoo has been very active on clean energy, climate, and energy efficiency, including introducing H.R. 540, the Energy Efficient Government Technology Act, legislation which would improve federal data center efficiency. Pallone has been supportive of energy efficiency throughout his time in Washington, supporting state energy efficiency resource standards and energy efficiency tax incentives.

Lastly, with Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp (R-MI) retiring, presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will likely take the lead on the Ways and Means Committee. Ryan is committed to advancing tax reform and has recently been vocal about introducing dynamic scoring into the Congressional Budget scoring process, both issues which could have significant implications for energy efficiency.

Looking Ahead

Party leadership in both chambers will be meeting over the next few weeks to determine committee assignments. With committee assignment changes, new staff, and incoming lawmakers, the Alliance will be doing extensive outreach on the Hill in the upcoming weeks and months to educate all lawmakers and staff on the benefits of energy efficiency and productivity; to identify new allies; and, to engage and support our existing champions.

We look forward to working with our Honorary Vice-Chairs, Party and Committee leaders, and all new Members of Congress to advance the goal of doubling U.S. energy productivity by 2030 in the 114th Congress.