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Democrats Move to Plan B on Energy

Senate Democrats rolled out a scaled-back energy bill Tuesday afternoon that responds to the Gulf oil leak and incentivizes people to make energy-efficient renovations to their homes.

A draft version of the legislation, released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would impose strict new safety standards on offshore drilling operators, require drillers to front the capital that would be necessary to cover the cost of damages in the event of an accident, and put in place a limitless liability requirement in the event of another spill or disaster — removing the current $75 million cap.

The bill also includes $5 billion for the HOMESTAR Program, which would provide homeowners with rebates to make energy efficiency upgrades such as better insulation in attics and walls, or window and door replacements.

Speaking this afternoon in the White House Rose Garden after meeting with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, President Obama said the proposal was “an important step in the right direction.” Mr. Obama also pledged to “keep pushing for broader reform,” calling the country’s current energy policy “unsustainable.”

In a statement accompanying the release of the draft, Majority Leader Reid acknowledged that the bill “does not address every issue of importance to our nation’s energy challenges.” Reid said work must continue “to find bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive bill.”

On Monday night, House Democrats unveiled their own 238-page proposal to respond to the oil disaster. Debate is expected to begin Friday, a day before House members are scheduled to break for their month-long August recess.

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