House Democrats Wrap-Up "First 100 Hours" Agenda with Passage of Energy Bill

In only forty-two hours of floor time, the Democratic-led House successfully passed all six of its "first 100 hours" initiatives. The final bill, the CLEAN (Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation) Energy Act of 2007, passed in a 264-163 vote last Friday. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, the bill would do the following:

  • Eliminate nearly $6 billion worth of oil industry tax breaks previously enacted by Congress.
  • Impose a $9/barrel “conservation fee” on oil and gas drilled in the Gulf of Mexico by companies who refuse to renegotiate lease contracts signed with the federal government in the late 1990s (the leases mistakenly omitted a standard escape clause that would have required the companies to pay royalties if oil prices rose above roughly $34 a barrel). Officials from the Interior Department have estimated that if unchanged, the mistake could ultimately cost the federal government up to $10 billion.
  • Prohibit the oil and gas industries from taking advantage of a 2004 tax break aimed at helping U.S. manufacturers compete against imports. That provision, while not specifically directed at oil and gas companies, has saved them about $700 million annually in the years following its implementation.

Democratic House leaders estimated that the bill would generate an additional $15 billion in revenue for the federal government over a ten-year period. Nearly all of this revenue would be stored in a newly-created research and development fund for renewable fuels such as solar and wind power, alternative fuels including ethanol and bio-diesel, and conservation incentives. In the Senate, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) stated, “I support the principle behind the House bill,” and asked for it to be placed on the Senate calendar.

In a statement, the Bush administration expressed opposition to the bill. Specifically, it argued that the measure unfairly “singles out” the oil and gas industries by making them ineligible for the 2004 tax break aimed at “domestic manufacturers.” The administration also opposed the provision designed to pressure companies into renegotiating offshore drilling leases from the 1990s. Unlike House legislation expanding stem cell research and requiring the government to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, however, the president did not threaten a veto.

Congresspedia has a new page on the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. Check it for updates as the legislation moves to the Senate and remember, it's a wiki, so you can add details yourself if you have them!