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House Republicans Campaign To Approve Energy Measures

By Peter Behr
THE WASHINGTON POST -- House Republican leaders Tuesday began a hurried campaign to pass a package of energy measures before Congress’s summer recess begins in three weeks, but left many key issues on the sidelines because of differences with Democrats and a lack of clear policy signals from the Bush administration.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is scheduled to begin voting this week on a scaled-back legislative proposal that would increase federal subsidies for cleaner coal-burning technology, help more low-income households winterize homes and pay energy bills and call for more energy efficient television sets.

But a much longer list of high-priority issues, including many in President Bush’s energy plan, are stalled or tangled by divisions within the energy industry or between the industry and environmental critics. The delay could threaten action on the energy production and transmission problems cited by the administration eight weeks ago when it unveiled its program to address what it said was a looming national energy crisis.

“Whatever momentum there is (for comprehensive energy legislation) is dissipating by the day,” said Randall Davis, a Washington attorney who was a White House energy policy adviser under Reagan.

Bush administration officials are finishing legislative proposals to deal with challenges to the nation’s electricity system, including siting of new power lines, transmission network reliability and the future of retail electricity deregulation. White House aides say the complexity of these energy problems takes time to resolve.

“If we were to rush through these things, you’d be asking, ‘Don’t these issues require more deliberation?”’ said Dan Bartlett, deputy assistant to the president.

The test for the president is whether the window of opportunity for enacting major energy legislation will close this summer or fall before the administration can weigh in -- and how much leverage Bush can exert.

“If you don’t have the White House exerting leadership, I don’t see where it comes from,” Davis said.