While it seems like everyone in Washington, D.C., is fixated on the debt ceiling debate right now, there are other bills in Congress that could have an impact on the HVAC industry. Here’s a quick report on a few bills that may be brought up for votes this summer:

Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act

According to ASHRAE, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee recently amended and approved the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 (S. 1000). This bill would establish energy targets for ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for commercial and residential buildings, respectively.

ASHRAE reported that the committee made several amendments to the bill, including the deletion of the goal net-zero-energy for new commercial and residential buildings by 2030. The possible (“authorized”) funding level for the building codes section of S. 1000 was also increased from $100 million to $200 million. Additionally, the full cost of the bill would now be fully paid for.

Although the committee approved the bill for consideration on the Senate floor, Senate staff has committed to continue working with ASHRAE to further improve the bill.

EPA Lead Rule Amendment

ACCA’s Charlie McCrudden reported that a House committee recently passed an amendment that would ban enforcement of the EPA’s lead rule “until the agency approves a commercially available lead test kit.” (For more information on the EPA lead rule, click to: http://www.achrnews.com/Articles/Cover_Story/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000848908.)

Rep. Denny Rehber, R-Mont., a member of the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, offered the amendment to the FY 2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill.

According to McCrudden, this amendment is a victory for the construction industry. “To date the EPA has not approved a commercially available lead test kit, nor has the agency given any indication when it will approve a test kit. Without these tests, homeowners are paying to have contractors unnecessarily abide by the lead rule because there’s no way to prove there’s no lead in the home,” McCrudden wrote.

Now that the committee has amended the bill, it should come before the full House for a vote.

Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act

The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) announced its support for the Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act of 2011 (S.1142), which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. According to GEO, Tester’s bill offers “broad brush support of geothermal energy development.”

For geothermal heat pump (GHP) systems, GEO reported that the legislation seeks to:

• Improve the components, processes, and systems used for geothermal heat pumps and the direct use of geothermal energy; and

• Increase the energy efficiency, lower the cost, increase the use, and improve and demonstrate the applicability of geothermal heat pumps to, and the direct use of geothermal energy in, large buildings, commercial districts, residential communities, and large municipal, agricultural, or industrial projects.

If passed and made into law, S. 1142 would direct the Secretary of Energy, acting through the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, to establish a program of research, development, demonstration, and commercial application for geothermal heat pumps; to make grants available to state and local governments, institutions of higher education, nonprofit entities, utilities, and for-profit companies (including manufacturers) to promote the development of geothermal heat pumps.