What Made It Into the Energy Bill

>Yesterday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a summary (PDF) of what's still being called the "energy bill," though it includes none of the grand, carbon-slashing measures that phrase called to mind just weeks ago. Instead, the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act is a modest, contained package that gives a curt nod to climate advocates but focuses on responding to the BP oil spill.

Reid may or may not accept amendments, but for now, here's what the bill looks like:

1. Removes oil spill liability cap. The most contentious part of the bill would eliminate the $75 million cap the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 placed on oil companies whose offshore facilities experienced spills. Different House and Senate measures have proposed raising this cap, scaling it to companies' earnings, giving the president discretion to determine the cap, and eliminating it altogether. This last option, the harshest of all, would apply to BP retroactively. This section of the bill is modeled off Sen. Robert Mendendez's Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act. It is likely to spark the most opposition from Republicans.

In order to expand the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (essentially spill insurance for big oil producers), companies will now have to contribute 49 cents for every barrel of oil they produce.

2. Improves oil industry regulation. The bill reforms the now famously corrupt Minerals Management Service, keeping revenue collection separate from lease-granting and mandating that officials be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

3. Keeps the deepwater drilling moratorium. The bill requires a monthly "study on the effect of the moratoria on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on employment and small businesses." Republican senators will advocate lifting the ban.

4. Bolsters electric and natural gas-powered vehicles. The bill grants rebates to individuals who purchase these vehicles and makes loans to manufacturers who produce them.

5. Gives "Cash for Caulkers." This section of the legislation extends rebates to home owners who retrofit their homes to save energy and makes grants to states that provide retrofitting loans. Lawmakers claim it will create up to 150,000 new jobs.

6. Funds environmental conservation. This part of the bill is a meek nod to the environmentalists who were hoping for a cap on carbon. Instead, the bill would grant $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation fund for the next five years. This money would go toward expanding national parks, repairing damage to wildlife refuges, and other non-controversial environmental projects.

Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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