With No Energy Bill This Congress, Missed Opportunities for Conservation

ARLINGTON, VA | December 07, 2016

Today, a spokesperson for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives declared that there would be no further action on a bipartisan energy bill in this Congress. Both the House and Senate approved versions of the bill earlier this year with wide support.

The bill included a number of issues that could have helped conserve the nation’s lands and waters. Without final approval, however, the issue will now have to start again in the new Congress, which takes office in January.

“Congress missed a tremendous opportunity by not passing a comprehensive energy reform bill this year,” said Lynn Scarlett, Managing Director of Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy. “It is disappointing to see such positive action for American families and communities receive so much support, but still somehow not quite make it into law. Congress had a chance to advance energy efficiency, grid modernization, the Land and Water Conservation fund, a fix for wildfire funding, sportsmen’s issues and more in this one bill—all of which would have helped Americans and the lands and waters we depend upon.”

“Despite the hard work of many legislators on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate not coming to fruition right now, we’re confident their efforts will ultimately succeed,” added Scarlett. “In the Senate, we particularly thank Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, and Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen for their steadfast energy policy leadership. In the House, we’re grateful for the leadership of Chairman Fred Upton and Ranking Member Frank Pallone. The Nature Conservancy is committed to working with these leaders and others to ensure the next Congress quickly approves a comprehensive energy bill that best meets and balances the needs of people and nature.”

The Nature Conservancy had hoped to see the following policy measures included in a final conferenced energy package, and will continue to advocate for them in the next Congress:

  • Energy Efficiency: The Nature Conservancy supported the energy efficiency legislation authored by Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen. Energy efficiency reduces the need for new energy infrastructure across the landscape that pollutes and fragments the habitat needed by wildlife.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The Senate bill included a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Under LWCF, royalties from offshore oil and gas development are devoted to conservation and recreation projects. Over its 50-year history, LWCF has protected more than 5 million acres of park, forest and refuge lands and has funded 41,000 local recreation projects.
  • Grid Modernization: New technologies including distributed generation, energy storage, electric vehicles and micro-grids that can make the power system cleaner, more reliable and give consumers more control over their energy bills are rapidly changing electric power distribution systems. Integrating all these new devices requires standards for digital communication and new systems to collect and rapidly analyze large amounts of data on the performance of the distribution system. The Senate bill focused on those early development needs.
  • Habitat Conservation: The Senate bill authorized key habitat conservation programs including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) and Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). The Nature Conservancy fully supports these measures.
  • Wildfire Suppression: Finding a solution to increasing wildfire suppression costs and the resulting impacts on USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets is a priority for The Nature Conservancy. We will continue to support a comprehensive fire funding solution that 1) accesses disaster funding, 2) minimizes borrowing, and most importantly, 3) addresses the impacts of the increasing costs on programs.
  • SAVE Act: The Nature Conservancy supports the SAVE Act, which was included in the Senate bill. The SAVE Act requires mortgage lenders to consider the benefits of energy efficiency investments in houses at the time a new mortgage is issued. Energy costs are a very substantial portion of the average family’s budget. If they can be reduced significantly through energy efficiency retrofits and highly efficient heating and water appliances, it makes sense to recognize that in mortgage underwriting analysis.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Heather Layman
The Nature Conservancy