April 20, 2016

Senate Passes Udall Water Innovation and Conservation Measures, LWCF Permanent Extension in Bipartisan Energy Bill

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate in voting 85-12 to approve the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 - the first comprehensive energy bill passed in the Senate since 2007. The bill includes several provisions Udall has championed, including permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), his Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act, and an amendment to strengthen the WaterSense program.

"As we move away from our dependence on foreign oil and toward homegrown clean energy innovation, our energy policy and infrastructure must keep up. This bill paves the way for important updates that will spur energy research and development and help put more renewables on the power grid," Udall said. "I'm also elated that this bill includes several significant conservation programs. It officially establishes the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. And it permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports community parks and public lands throughout New Mexico and our nation. The LWCF is a smart investment that pays dividends - for every $1 invested, local communities see a $4 return. That success shows why the House must act as well - we need permanent funding and reauthorization so we can finally take the LWCF out of limbo."

Udall authored two water and energy efficiency provisions in the bill, which would help make progress at addressing a key issue for New Mexico's economy. The measures promote water conservation and energy efficiency through new technologies that minimize water waste. A third amendment by Udall, to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, failed to get the 60 votes required to be added to the bill.

"I'm very pleased that we're making progress on these measures," Udall continued. "WaterSense is the water efficiency equivalent of EnergyStar, and our provision encourages participation by strengthening and expanding Congress' commitment to the voluntary program. WaterSense gives New Mexico consumers another tool to help make every drop count - something critical to our way of life in the arid West, where access to water is critical for economic development and public health. And my Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act can help New Mexico communities upgrade our water infrastructure to prevent leaks, saving both money and energy."

After passing the Senate, the Energy Policy Modernization Act will need to be reconciled with a House-passed energy bill into a final product before going to the president's desk for signature and enactment into law.

Background on WaterSense
The Senate added Udall's bipartisan WaterSense amendment to the bill yesterday with a unanimous voice vote. WaterSense is a public-private partnership that sets voluntary technical standards for water appliances such as toilets, showerheads, and landscape irrigation systems that are at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance. These appliances can receive a WaterSense label so that consumers know they are purchasing water-efficient products. The amendment also supports local and state rebate and incentive programs that encourage customers to buy water-efficient products and landscaping. And it establishes a "Blue Bank" to provide grants to help water and sewer utilities invest in water supply management, planning and water-efficiency. It was cosponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Background on Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act
Udall's bill, the Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act, was incorporated into the larger Energy Policy Modernization Act in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. An estimated 2.1 trillion gallons of treated clean drinking water are lost to leaks each year, and Udall's bill will encourage innovative solutions to this problem by supporting smart water system pilot projects in three to five cities across the country. Communities would compete for grant funding to develop demonstration projects and to create a "smart-grid" for water - detecting leaks as soon as they happen, or even before they happen - to save both water and the energy needed to transport and clean it. The pilots would serve as models for other communities to replicate and build on.

Background on Clean Energy Victory Bonds
During debate on the legislation, the Senate also voted on Udall's Clean Energy Victory Bonds amendment to spur investment in the growing clean energy economy and create jobs. The amendment needed 60 votes to be added to the legislation, but it faced Republican opposition and failed 50-47.

"In today's Congress, the very words 'clean energy' seem to have turned into a partisan poison pill," Udall said. "Clean Energy Victory Bonds have the potential to raise billions to help local communities build their clean energy infrastructure and create jobs - from solar and geothermal heating to energy-efficient building upgrades. Americans in New Mexico and across the country want to fight climate change and promote clean energy innovation. Victory Bonds helped the United States win World War II - and while climate change is a very different threat, we need that same patriotic energy to meet this challenge. I'll keep working to promote this commonsense idea, despite partisan opposition."

The amendment Udall proposed would have directed the Departments of Energy and the Treasury to submit a plan to Congress to develop Clean Energy Victory Bonds. The sale of these bonds could raise up to $50 billion, which could be leveraged to inject $150 billion into clean energy innovation and create over 1 million jobs. Udall spoke about the plan yesterday on the U.S. Senate floor.