WASHINGTON -- House and Senate conferees approved a massive energy bill late yesterday that includes $23 billion in tax incentives, clearing the way for the legislation's final congressional approval, probably this week.
The House could take up the measure, a top priority for President Bush, as early as today.
The conferees rejected dozens of amendments, most of them brought by Democrats, as they left the Republican-crafted bill -- the product of weeks of closed-door negotiations -- largely intact.
House negotiators passed it by voice vote, followed by approval from the Senate side by a vote of 8 to 5. The seven GOP senators were joined by Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, in support of the bill.
Among amendments turned back by the House after being offered by Senate negotiators was a provision to require electric utilities to produce 10 percent of their power from renewable fuels. The utility industry had fought the fuel-use mandate.
Two-thirds of the $23 billion in tax breaks in the bill would go to the oil, gas, and coal industries.
Congressional estimates released yesterday put the cost of the total package, the first overhaul of the nation's energy priorities in a decade, at $32 billion over 10 years, including about $9 billion for nontax measures and revenue losses.
Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, said the bill, which runs to 1,148 pages, was the product of delicate compromises between the House and Senate, and warned that too many changes could jeopardize the package. "I don't think we can take a risk of undoing this," he said.
Final details of the bill's tax section were completed during the weekend.