Summary of S. 630 Mark Up

Prepared by SMI for OREC

This morning, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources resumed the markup of S. 630, the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2011.  The legislation passed out of Committee by voice vote and will be placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.


On March 31st, OREC President Sean O’Neill provided testimony on S. 630, which was then considered by the committee at a mark-up on April 12th.  Unfortunately, by the time the bill came up on the agenda the committee was short of the twelve member quorum required for a final vote on the measure.  Nonetheless, two amendments were agreed to at the first mark-up in April.  The first amendment was offered by Sens. Wyden (D-OR) and Shaheen (D-NH) to clarify that existing test facilities will receive priority for grants and new facilities shall not duplicate efforts.  The second amendment was offered by Chairman Bingaman (D-NM) and allows small hydro projects less than 15 MW to compete for funding under the bill.  There was significant discussion regarding the authorization amounts and off-sets that eventually caused the bill to be tabled until today’s mark-up.


When the measure was brought up for consideration today, discussion among Senators regarding offsets to cover the cost of MHK funding in the bill resumed.  Sen. Landrieu (D-LA) restated that she strongly disagrees with the minority’s position that before creating new programs, a separate program must essentially be eliminated to offset the authorization.  She further explained that the matter is complicated when the program proposed to offset a new authorization is not under the jurisdiction of the committee.  She closed her comments by reiterating that authorizations are not appropriations, and that authorizing a program does not ensure it will be funded at the authorized levels.  As an example, current FY11 funding is $30 million as determined by DOE under the Continuing Resolution for the Water Power R&D program, yet the program is authorized to spend up to $50 million.


Despite Sen. Landrieu’s objection to offsetting new authorizations, Ranking Member Murkowski (R-AK) identified an offset under the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy Committee to ensure bipartisan support for the bill.  The amendment to section 8 of the bill authorizes $70 million for MHK R&D in Fiscal Year (FY) 12 and $75 million in FY 13.  For FY 12, $50 million has already been authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  The additional $20 million will be offset from unappropriated funds in Section 209 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  The $75 million in FY 13 will be offset from an unused Department of Energy direct loan program.


The last amendment agreed to before the bill was favorably moved out of the committee was a joint staff amendment recommended by Sen. Landrieu to include riverine energy programs in the bill.


Ranking Member Murkowski expressed her gratitude to committee members for working with her to find suitable offsets under the jurisdiction of the committee.  She also expressed her strong belief that the MHK industry holds great potential to help meet U.S. energy needs, and that S. 630 is needed to provide a more level playing field for MHK in the realm of renewable energy development.


We will continue to lobby both chambers of Congress to seek passage of this legislation and will keep you informed as events develop.  Please contact OREC with any questions or if you need additional information.