Report by Jim Collura, NEFI Vice President & Director of Government Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Thursday, June 28, the Senate voted 86-11 in favor of a bipartisan Farm Bill (H.R.2) that includes an amendment permanently reauthorizing the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA). Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) offered the NORA amendment, which was accepted as part of a broader manager's amendment offered on the floor. Other Senators playing a key role in the effort include Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Patrick Leahy (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI).
The NORA program was created by Congress in 2000 to allow the Oilheat industry to provide more efficient and reliable heat and hot water to the American consumer. A "check-off" program, NORA receives $0.002 at the wholesale level on every gallon of heating oil sold. NORA provides critical training opportunities and supports the necessary research and development for the industry. Oilheat is currently used in 6.3 million homes, serving more than 16 million Americans and thousands of businesses across the country.
The federal law establishing NORA includes a requirement that the program be renewed or "reauthorized" every five years. This is known to Washington insiders as a "sunset provision." NORA was last reauthorized as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, owing its germaneness to that legislation to its ongoing work in bringing advanced biofuels such as biodiesel into the heating oil market. NORA is currently set to expire on February 6, 2019. If enacted, the Shaheen Amendment to reauthorize NORA would eliminate the sunset provision and make the program permanent. This would make it consistent with the propane check-off program, which is also permanent.
In a statement, Shaheen called NORA "a vital program that funds the development of improved and efficient Oilheat technology to increase safety and reduce consumer costs." Senator Leahy, who offered an amendment to reauthorize NORA during committee mark-up, said making the program permanent would "help Vermonters heat their homes in less expensive and more environmentally friendly ways." NEFI commends Senators Shaheen, Leahy, Collins, Reed, and the other members of the delegation for their leadership.
Next steps: The inclusion of NORA in the Senate Farm Bill was the result of a great team effort by the industry. NEFI thanks everyone who pitched in to help us make this important first step. The House passed its own, more controversial Farm Bill on June 21st. The House bill includes tough new eligibility requirements for food stamps, supported by the White House but opposed in the Senate. The two chambers must now form a conference committee to hash out the details and come to an agreement on a final bill that can pass both chambers. NEFI and other industry groups remain engaged in the process and will keep you updated.