The U.S. Senate voted today 51 to 47 in the affirmative to amend the behemoth transportation bill to include the NAT GAS Act, but that majority fell short of the 60 affirmative votes necessary to add the amendment to the bill.
The overall transportation bill will proceed to a full vote in the Senate without the amendment, leaving the future of the NAT GAS Act uncertain. The legislation is not necessarily dead, but there are few options to reintroduce the bill before the November elections.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., submitted the NAT GAS Act as a possible amendment to the transportation bill on March 5, with Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., as co-sponsors. The Senate approved Menendez's measure – along with 29 others, out of more than 300 proposals – for consideration last Wednesday.
The NAT GAS Act is a policy mechanism aimed at increasing the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and boosting domestic production of natural gas vehicles. The bill seeks to reinstate tax credits for NGV purchases and conversions that expired at the end of 2010, as well as to extend credits for fueling infrastructure that expired at the end of December 2011. Other measures include the creation of a production tax credit for NGV manufacturers.
Sens. Menendez, Burr, Reid, and colleague Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., put the act into the Senate's queue in November 2011 with pay-for measures included. But as today's vote suggests, that carrot did not entice a sufficient number of naysayers to cross the aisle.
‘Congress wants to do something, but you have people who say you shouldn't be picking winners and losers,’ Richard Kolodziej, president of trade group NGVAmerica, told NGT News. ‘Of course we should be. The loser is foreign oil; the winner is domestic fuel.’
A companion bill to the NAT GAS Act, H.R.1380, is still alive in the House.