April 20, 2016

Senate Passes Bipartisan Energy Bill Containing Whitehouse Priorities

Washington, DC – Today the Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which includes Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) bipartisan legislation to promote the development of advanced nuclear reactor technology and an amendment Whitehouse supported to promote carbon capture technology.  The bill was sponsored by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

“We need to chart a new course for our energy policy—to fight the climate crisis and ensure American consumers and businesses have the affordable energy they need.  This bill takes important steps in that direction, like adopting the legislation I wrote with Senator Crapo to promote nuclear innovation,” said Whitehouse.  “I commend Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell for their leadership on this bill.”

The bill includes the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which was authored by Whitehouse and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and adopted as an amendment to the energy bill in January.  The legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize partnerships between private innovators, universities, and our national labs in developing, testing, and demonstrating new reactor technologies and concepts.  It would also require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to report to Congress on any barriers that would prohibit the licensing of new reactors within a four-year time period.  That will help to reduce our dependence on the carbon-intensive fossil fuels driving global climate change. 

Whitehouse also cosponsored a successful amendment by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) calling on DOE to continue to develop and deploy carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies (CCUS), and to report to Congress on the feasibility of the federal government entering into contracts to purchase carbon dioxide at a guaranteed price from CCUS projects.

While he voted for passage of the bill, Whitehouse expressed concerns about a provisions relating to the adoption of biomass fuels.  “In one area, this bill takes a step in the wrong direction by hamstringing the experts at the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies charged with determining whether biomass fuels are carbon neutral.  The question of carbon neutrality should be based on science and not dictated by Congress.  I hope we can revisit this issue soon.”


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