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Reid: Energy bill headed to the floor before spring recess

E&E News PM (subs req’d) reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today that the Senate would turn to energy legislation when lawmakers return from the Presidents Day recess next week, while climate legislation is on a slower track.

Reid said the Senate would act on a bill that includes a national renewable electricity standard during the six-week work period that starts Monday. The measure will not be packaged with legislation to create curbs on nationwide greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

“That,” he said, “will come later.”

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The Senate appears to be taking a different path from the House, where Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) recently said he is leaning toward packaging a national renewables standard with a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, as part of a comprehensive energy and climate measure.

I think Waxman is making a mistake here, since I don’t think we can (or should) get a climate bill this year (see “Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010. Here’s how.”), whereas we definitely can and should get a big energy bill this year to accelerate efficiency and renewables and a smart grid.

The article continues with more detail on the Senate’s plans:

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has said he plans to steer a broad, bipartisan energy measure through his committee, and staff have been working on the issue for months. Reid said an energy measure would move through the committee in the first two weeks after the Presidents Day break.

But Bingaman has only recently begun hearings on various energy matters — the committee last week held sessions on loan guarantees for low-emissions energy projects and a proposed national renewable electricity standard. The next meeting listed on the committee’s Web site is a hearing on increasing energy efficiency in buildings, slated for Feb. 26.

“The next six-week work period is going to be intense, with a dozen or so other energy-themed hearings being planned,” Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker said in an e-mail today.

Wicker noted that Bingaman said as recently as last week that he plans to have the bipartisan bill ready to go in the spring. “It’s possible for some discrete energy legislation to move as stand-alones before the omnibus bill is completed. That is what Leader Reid noted in his call today,” he added. “However, a legislative strategy on doing that is still being decided.”

Bingaman recently floated a draft renewable power standard that would require power companies to obtain 16 percent of their supply from renewables by 2019, and 20 percent in 2021 and thereafter. A fourth of the target can be met with efficiency measures under the plan.

Wicker said early this month that Bingaman would prefer including the renewables standard in the measure reported out of committee but that he would also weigh other options, including a floor amendment or a separate bill.