U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, was successful in getting his amendment passed in committee for inclusion in the 2013 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill:
The Energy Independence and Security Act, signed into law in 2007, included a provision that sought to phase out all fossil fuel generated energy use in federal buildings. This provision, Section 433 of the law, led the Department of Energy (DOE) to propose a rule mandating new federal buildings and those set to undergo renovations costing $2.5 million or more to largely restrict their use of fossil fuel generated energy. Specifically, this aggressive directive states that such federal buildings must consume 65 percent less of this type of energy compared to the amount used in 2003, and by 2030, have it completely eliminated.
Regarding this mandate and the reasoning behind introducing his critical amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, Alexander outlined the following concerns.
"For starters, this harmful mandate would actually impede advancements made by the U.S. in developing alternative energy sources, such as vital progress in harnessing the potential of natural gas. Instead of accomplishing its intent of reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuel generated energy, it would in fact cause us to regress.
"Secondly, federal agencies, which have seen their budgets slashed within recent years, are not financially capable of complying with the fossil fuel generated energy reduction rule, and other agencies, currently using natural gas to improve their energy efficiencies, will chose instead not to undertake retrofits or renovations that will lessen energy needs even further.
"In turn, this rule will end up costing the American taxpayer as the energy bills for federal buildings will continue to increase, and the pursuit of natural gas alternatives will diminish, leading to a bleak energy future.
"All of which were reason for me to author the General Provision amendment in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, which prohibits DOE from using any funds to implement a final rule on Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
"Section 433 means no natural gas back up for renewables, no combined heat and power, no fuel cells, and no natural gas (or coal) on the grid. Additionally, it is my understanding that this provision in the 2007 law was originally planned as a goal, but evolved into a mandate leaving federal agencies bewildered at how to comply. The amendment that passed would allow the federal government and other stakeholders to reevaluate and see if a long-term solution can ultimately be reached.
"The House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee has been working closely with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose members are supportive of having legislation passed this year that addresses this issue."
Also, Alexander highlighted crucial language contained in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill Report.
"Moreover, my Appropriations subcommittee was successful in garnering important support for the development of natural gas technologies. The Report includes $10 million for research into shale gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing and $2 million for the DOE to continue the Risk Based Data Management System.
"With both the Haynesville Shale and the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale running through our state, Louisiana stands to largely gain from utilizing this energy source. The economic benefit to our state and what this means for the energy security of our nation is limitless."