ABO Legislative Review – May 2012

May was a busy month in Washington for Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) and other biofuels groups. We have been working aggressively with the ABFA, BIO and other associations to fend off attacks on biofuels during debate on the Farm Bill as well as the National Defense Authorization Act.

 

Below are summaries of the current state of play on these bills and other legislative activity.

 

Farm Bill

On April 26, the Senate Agriculture Committee completed their mark up (amendment process) for the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, also known as the Farm Bill. As you know, ABO joined a number of other biofuels associations to support inclusion of an Energy Title with mandatory funding. The version of the Farm Bill which passed the Senate Agriculture Committee does contain an Energy Title with mandatory funding.

 

The next step on the Senate side is full Senate consideration. We expect that the Farm Bill will be considered on the Senate floor in June. At that time, there may be amendments offered to strip mandatory funding and perhaps even to eliminate or further modify the Energy Title. ABO will continue to monitor the Farm Bill and will let ABO members know about upcoming floor action. When we learn of possible amendments which would affect ABO’s membership, we will reach out to you with an “Action Alert” so that you can contact your Senators and/or Representatives.

 

The House concluded hearings on the Farm Bill last month. ABO submitted written testimony to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry in support of ABO’s priorities. The House Agriculture Committee mark up of the Farm Bill has not yet been scheduled.

 

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

As part of a loose coalition, ABO and other biofuels supporters met with Senate staff to garner support for biofuels provisions in the NDAA. Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee marked up (amended) their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (the bill which authorizes all DOD programs).  During the mark up, three amendments regarding biofuels were offered.

 

Here are the amendments and the vote count.

 

1.  An amendment to exempt DOD from Section 526.  Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 essentially mandates that federal agencies only purchase alternative fuels which have lower GHG emissions than fossil fuel.

ABO opposed this amendment.

The Amendment Failed 13-13.

 

2.  An amendment to prohibit DOD funds from being used for production or sole purchase of alternative fuel (except for continued testing purposes) if the cost exceeds the cost of traditional fossil fuel used for the same purpose.

ABO opposed this amendment.

The Amendment Passed 13-12.

 

3.  An amendment to prohibit DOD funds from being use for the construction of a biofuels refinery or other biofuel refining facility unless authorized.

ABO opposed this amendment.

The Amendment Passed 13-12.

We expect this fight on biofuels to continue when the Defense Authorization Act is considered by the full Senate. . . probably sometime in July.  We are hopeful that Senator Mark Udall and others will lead a charge against the two anti-biofuels amendments which passed in the Senate full committee. ABO members will be asked through an Action Alert to ask their Senators to support any pro-biofuel amendments offered on the Senate floor during debate on the National Defense Authorization Act.

 

Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill

The House version of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Energy and other agencies, is expected to be considered on the House floor during the first week of June. The House bill includes $15 million for algae research and development. ABO expects that this level of funding will be maintained in the floor consideration of the bill. The Senate version of the Energy and Water bill includes $30 million, as was requested in the President’s Budget. These numbers will be negotiated by a conference committee comprised of members from both the House and the Senate. When the conference committee on the Energy and Water bill is announced, ABO members may be asked to contact specific members of the House and Senate in support of the higher funding level. Timing of the conference committee deliberations is unknown at this point.

 

Tax

ABO continues to monitor activity of the tax writing committees in Congress. It appears that there will not be movement on comprehensive tax legislation until the “Lame Duck” session of Congress – the time between the elections and the New Year, when the newly elected members of the House and Senate have not yet taken office. There is speculation that a “tax extenders” bill will be considered during a Lame Duck session. As directed by the EPC, ABO will actively work to have tax parity for algae included in any tax extenders legislation.

 

Summer of Algae II in 3D

As you know, ABO is organizing the Summer of Algae II – a set of visits to ABO member facilities by federal and state officials and staff. Thank you to all of the ABO members who have agreed to host a visit. To date, we have more than 12 organization/company commitments. We are hopeful that these visits will educate legislators and staff while also attracting media attention. In addition, the visits will reinforce the work that we have done for the past four years during our fly-ins: educating members and their staff about our legislative priorities. In addition, we are developing a “Legislative Visit Tool Kit” for those members who may not be able to participate in August, but would like to showcase their facilities and activities on a future date.

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