- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

House and Senate negotiators yesterday ended four years of stalling, filibusters and broken promises by reaching an agreement on a national energy policy that is expected to pass both houses of Congress.

The agreement resulted from a session that lasted from 5 p.m. Monday until 3:30 a.m. yesterday.

Negotiators stripped from the bill several key provisions, including the Democrat-backed Renewables Portfolio Standard that industry analysts called a “thinly disguised subsidy for wind energy.”

The bill faces opposition from both sides of the aisle, but likely not enough to kill it.

The House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees are working on the tax title, which ultimately will determine how much the bill will exceed the Bush administration’s targeted $7 billion cost.

“I only know that there are more tax cuts provided than we can afford,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.

She won her fight to protect provisions for increased oil and gas royalties, a $1 billion payout to the six oil- and gas-producing coastal states and an inventory of the liquid and gaseous fuel sources available near the remaining coastal states nationwide.

Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, views the inventory as an affront to the “pristine beaches” and tourism in his home state. He said he might vote against the bill when it reaches the Senate floor, likely tomorrow afternoon.

“Florida’s coastlines are in danger,” Mr. Martinez said, adding that the inventory provision “tarnishes the entire energy bill, and I think this is a precursor to drilling.”

The House is expected to take up the conference report Friday with final passage over the weekend. That would make the bill ready for President Bush’s signature by the first week of August as promised.

Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, lost a fight to protect producers of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) and clean up spills of the synthetic fuel additive, as well as a provision to help energy producers by postponing certain aspects of the Clean Air Act’s deadlines.

But Mr. Barton said he will support the bill.

“I agree with our president. Four years is long enough for an energy bill,” Mr. Barton said. “This agreement turns the tide and offers support to both our economy and our national security.”

Republican lawmakers said the bill will help lower gasoline prices, improve the reliability of the electricity grid and prevent future blackouts, promote clean burning and alternative fuels, and open the door for four new nuclear plants.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the bill will not offer immediate relief for high gasoline prices.

“If the president is serious about reducing the cost of gasoline, then he would support a dramatic increase in the use of biodiesel and ethanol in gasoline as part of the energy bill,” Mr. Reid said.

“The president’s energy plan is a bad deal for American consumers and will do nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce our consumption or increase production here at home,” he said.

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