Senate energy bill negotiations could be delayed until after recess

Source: By Rachel Frazin, The Hill • Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Wednesday that negotiations on sweeping and bipartisan energy legislation will cool down over next week’s recess amid disputes over a potential amendment to the legislation.

A proposal introduced by Carper and Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has held up negotiations on the energy package put forth by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

“Sen Kennedy’s advice was ‘Why don’t we just all go home to our home states and let people calm down and come back,’” Carper told The Hill. “And I think there’s actually some wisdom in that.”

Opponents of the measure to reduce the use of the heat-trapping chemical have pushed for the addition of language that would prevent states from adding additional regulations on top of the federal rule.

A Senate aide told reporters that Carper and Kennedy have offered a compromise that would preempt states from putting their own laws in place for two years.

A spokesman for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), one of the most vocal opponents of the HFCs measure, told The Hill in a statement that this compromise isn’t “real preemption.”

“The minority office offered a two-year pause on state regulation,” said spokesman Mike Danylak. “That will only delay the issue two years.”

He added that Barrasso “has concerns with any legislative effort that will layer new federal rules on a patchwork of current or future state rules – including state rules in two years. Chairman Barrasso still awaits a counter offer from the minority that includes real preemption language.”

A Carper spokesperson, however, pushed back, saying that Barrasso wants “permanent removal — from both states and EPA — of the authority to regulate the uses of HFCs.”

“Senator Carper does not support a policy approach that permanently leaves no one with the authority to regulate HFC usage,” his spokesperson told The Hill in an email.

Meanwhile, Murkowski said Wednesday that while her legislation is delayed, it is still in play.

“What I’m trying to figure out right now is how we end up with what we started to do which is to put in place energy reforms,” she told reporters. “We’re stalled out right now, but we are not dead.”

She also said that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made a “good” and “solid” commitment to her on the bill.

“We will work through this, but I also recognize that you have limited daylight in an election year to legislate,” she said.

The Murkowski-Manchin legislation would spur research on a number of types of energy and is the first major package on the topic in more than a decade.

The HFC amendment has become a sticking point on the legislation, with Kennedy and Carper pushing for a vote. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has threatened to filibuster if it’s not considered.

The White House, meanwhile, is among those expressing opposition to the amendment, citing a lack of preemption language.

Rebecca Beitsch contributed.

|