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Capitol Hill Update: Senate extends airport law, moves landmark energy package

Aug 2, 2016

With just hours to spare, the U.S. Senate passed (89-4) and the President signed a short-term, 14-month extension of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after senators agreed to a unanimous consent agreement to pass the vital extension on July 14, one day before the FAA, airport operations, and construction authority was set to expire.

While SMACNA had supported a far broader reform package with increased funding for airport construction, the GOP House and Senate leadership was deadlocked, preventing anything more than an extension of current law. This will allow another year to work out the differences that both sides on the Hill have with FAA reform.

The bill, The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, authorizes FAA programs at current funding levels through September 2017.

On a related matter, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Republicans for breaking a promise to include renewable energy investment tax credit (ITC) extenders on the short-term FAA patch.

Democrats say the investment tax credits were accidently left out of a major tax package last year that were intended to boost combined heat and power and waste heat to power (CHP/WHP), as well as thermal and solar tax credits. Sen. Reid threatened but stopped short of objecting to the overall legislation because of the failure to include extending the ITC.

Senate passes landmark energy package

The Senate voted on July 12 (84-3) to move quickly forward with its wide-ranging energy policy bill, setting up an expedited process on Capitol Hill when Congress returns in September.

Lawmakers in each chamber will now reconcile the Senate’s energy bill passed in April with a House package passed in May, which includes its energy bill from last year and dozens of previously passed Republican-backed measures.

The preconference agreement came after weeks of negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans and moves the bill closer to the Senate version containing more efficiency incentives for residential, commercial, industrial, and public facilities.  The energy package is moving nearer resolution after an eight-year journey.

The Senate’s bill, dubbed the Energy Policy Modernization Act, has many provisions meant to modernize energy policy, including speeding natural gas exports, updating the electric grid, encouraging energy efficiency, and more. The House’s bill was twice as long, but had meager efficiency provisions.

In addition, the White House had threatened to veto the House bill before it even passed last year, so big changes were required by House negotiators or the entire effort might have failed for the eighth straight year.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-6th-Mich.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with jurisdiction, said that his goal is to get a bill signed. “At the end of the day, my goal is to get something to the president that he will sign into law.”

As Congress returns in September, few doubt the President will sign a bill before the election that most will find acceptable and that HVAC industry firms would benefit from as the energy efficiency market expands.

To voice your support for this legislation, contact your House and Senator members at www.smacna.org/advocacy.