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Burgess Amendment Keeps Light Bulb Law Repeal Alive

Rep. Burgess has floated an amendment that — like Rep. Barton's initial measure — would bar the DOE from enforcing 2007 lighting efficiency standards

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jul 14, 2011
Rep. Joe Barton

Update (July 15): The House today approved the amendment from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) to prohibit the use of funds in a 2012 spending bill from being used to implement lighting efficiency standards Congress enacted in its comprehensive 2007 energy law.

WASHINGTON—Opponents of a proposal to switch off energy-saving progress on lighting technology are still lauding House Republicans for soundly snubbing legislation they refer to as "dim BULB" legislation.

Proponents, however, claim Rep. Joe Barton's measure isn't burned out yet.

To give it another chance at passing, Rep. Michael Burgess, another Texas Republican who also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, floated a similarly worded amendment Wednesday.

Burgess's amendment, which would limit efficiency standards for incandescent light bulbs, would be considered as part of the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill that the House is mulling over. It's one of 12 appropriations bills designed to fund the entire federal government for the fiscal year beginning this October.

If approved, the amendment would bar the Department of Energy from enforcing lighting efficiency standards Congress enacted via an overarching 2007 energy law. It has little chance of surviving a Senate vote.

Representatives are expected to consider the amendment sometime this week, Jim DiPeso, policy director with , told SolveClimate News in an interview.

"They are grasping at straws," DiPeso said about the attempted end run. "It's a tactic that is commonly used, using an appropriations bill as leverage to get the policy you want."

Bizarre Legislation

DiPeso referred to Barton's initial Better Use of Light Bulbs Act as "bizarre legislation," and heralded its failure on a 193 to 233 Tuesday vote as a victory for the economy, the environment and common sense.

His organization praised 10 Republicans — including Reps. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, Brian Bilbray of California, Tom Reed of New York and Dave Reichert of Washington — for voting to defeat it.

"Barton's bill is a foolish piece of legislation," DiPeso said. "It's a daffy solution in search of a non-existent problem. There is no ban and there never has been one. It's the same quality of service, lower costs and more consumer choices than ever. What is not to like?"

The BULB Act, DiPeso said, was based on the false premise that the 2007 law establishing efficiency standards for general-service, screw-in light bulbs bans incandescent bulbs and forces consumers to purchase compact fluorescent lighting. Instead, that law phases out inefficient bulbs in favor of upgraded versions of incandescents, compact fluorescents and light-emitting diodes.

Actually, industry giants such as Sylvania, Philips and General Electric joined states such as California and Nevada — as well as a coterie of environmental organizations — and backed that legislation to save energy and avoid a patchwork of state standards that would have created market confusion. President George W. Bush signed it into law four years ago.

Though it might seem hard to believe at this juncture, it was Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) who paired up with former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) to write the efficiency standards. Harman recently left Congress to head up a think tank and the once-moderate Upton has leaned far to the right after taking over leadership at the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Analysts estimate that improved efficiency will save each household between $100 to $200 per year on electric bills and prevent 100 million tons of heat-trapping gases from being spewed into the air. The latter is the equivalent of emissions from 17 million cars.

Conservatives Fuming

Some conservative organizations are criticizing Barton for the manner in which he chose to streamline the Tuesday vote on his BULB Act. For instance, Virginia-based is labeling the decision to suspend the rules as a "parliamentary miscalculation."

In a nutshell, suspending the rules on a House vote means a bill can't be amended in any way, plus it needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

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