By DARREN SAMUELSOHN | 12/15/11 9:37 PM EST
The shutdown-averting budget bill will block federal light bulb efficiency standards, giving a win to House Republicans fighting the so-called ban on incandescent light bulbs.
GOP and Democratic sources tell POLITICO the final omnibus bill includes a rider defunding the Energy Department’s standards for traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient.
DOE’s light bulb rules — authorized under a 2007 energy law authored signed by President George W. Bush — would start going into effect Jan. 1. The rider will prevent DOE from implementing the rules through Sept. 30.
But Democrats said they could claim a “compromise” by adding language to the omnibus that requires DOE grant recipients greater than $1 million to certify they will upgrade the efficiency of their facilities by replacing any lighting to meet or exceed the 2007 energy law’s standards.
Fueled by conservative talk radio, Republicans made the last-ditch attempt to stop federal regulations from making their way into every Americans’ living room.
“There are just some issues that just grab the public’s attention. This is one of them,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “It’s going to be dealt with in this legislation once and for all.”
After giving up in recent weeks on dozens of other riders aimed at stopping EPA rules because of opposition from Senate Democrats and the White House, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) told POLITICO that the light bulb rider was “going to be in there.”
“Speaker [John] Boehner to Chairman [Fred] Upton to Chairman [Hal] Rogers, they all strongly support keeping it in,” said Barton, who served as ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2007 when the light bulb language got approved. “And it’s a personal commitment because of their philosophy.”
The White House was not publicly spelling out which riders it didn’t want in the final spending package, with communications director Dan Pfeiffer only saying Wednesday that the House GOP plan would “undercut environmental protections.”
On Twitter, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) wrote: “I strongly oppose that language. I hope it’s deleted from any final bill that we pass.”
House Democrats recalled Upton was an original co-sponsor of the light bulb provision inserted in the 2007 energy law and bemoaned his rightward shift since running last fall for Energy and Commerce chairman.
“This is just another poke in the eye,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
“It’s the power of Michele Bachmann and the presidential campaign,” added Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee that approved the original language. “What can I say? If we can solve the energy problem with the outcome on the light bulb, America would be a great place.”
Before the final deal, House Interior-EPA Appropriations ranking member Jim Moran (D-Va.) said the light bulb language — much to his chagrin — was one of the last remaining holdups
“There’s an issue with light bulbs and that’s so inconsequential I’m too embarrassed to even discuss it,” he told reporters. “It’s not even worth talking about; it’s something that can always be worked out.”
True to his word Moran declined to say who was fighting against the House language.
Environmentalists and clean energy types have tried to mount a last-ditch defense, with plans for a Friday press conference that includes representatives from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Philips Electronics North America, Consumers Union, the Alliance to Save Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Republicans for Environmental Protection also hoped to shame its GOP brethren into backing down.
“In the real world, outside talk radio’s echo chamber, lighting manufacturers such as GE, Philips and Sylvania have tooled up to produce new incandescent light bulbs that look and operate exactly the same as old incandescent bulbs, and give off just as much warm light,” said Jim DiPeso, the group’s policy director.
“The only difference is they produce less excess heat and are therefore 30 percent more efficient. Same light, lower energy bills. What’s not to like?”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking member of the Interior and environment subcommittee, said she wasn’t driving the debate over light bulbs.
“Is it a must have for me? No,” she said. “That was not something that I got focused on or took up as an initiative.”
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the Interior and environment appropriations subcommittee, said Senate opposition to the light bulb provisions had up to this point been minimal.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” he said. “They objected to all the other EPA riders and stuff. That was the instructions from the White House. But apparently the light bulb ones didn’t bother them too much.”
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) sponsored the underlying light bulb amendment attached earlier this summer to the Energy and Water spending bill. “This is a small part,” he said of the language making it through House-Senate conference negotiations. “It’s a trillion dollar bill.”
Asked why it kept coming back among all the other legislative riders sought by Republicans, Burgess deadpanned, “I don’t know. I think it’s just a testament to the power that I wield in the United States House of Representatives.”
Darren Goode contributed to this report.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 9:37 p.m. on December 15, 2011.
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