House and Senate negotiators agreed Thursday to extend daylight saving time by four weeks as part of a sweeping energy bill.
The provision is designed to save energy. But Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a co-sponsor, said, “The beauty of daylight savings time is that it just makes everyone feel sunnier.”
Under the measure, clocks would be turned forward an hour on the second Sunday of March and turned back an hour on the first Sunday of November. Currently, daylight saving time runs from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. The extension would become effective one year after the enactment of the energy bill and would require the Energy Department to study the impact of the change.
The extension was approved as congressional negotiators worked on an overhaul of U.S. energy policy, a priority for President Bush that seeks to address public concern about high energy costs.
Before the extension of daylight saving time can become law, negotiators must deal with other issues that doomed energy legislation two years ago -- most notably a dispute over whether to give legal protection to producers of a gasoline additive, methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, that has been blamed for fouling water supplies across the country.
House Republicans are exploring the creation of an industry-funded cleanup program. Democratic lawmakers said Thursday that they feared the fund would fall far short of the estimated $25 billion or more needed to clean contaminated sites nationwide, thus forcing taxpayers to cover most of the cost. They also said that water agencies had been shut out of negotiations for a compromise.
“Any deal on MTBE which will leave our taxpayers and water providers paying the bill for cleanup is unacceptable and unjust to consumers,” said Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-El Monte).
On the daylight saving time measure, the sponsors originally proposed a longer extension but shortened it in response to concerns about children waiting for morning buses or walking to school in the dark.
The U.S. airline industry also objected to the extension, saying it would disrupt airline schedules and cost the industry millions of dollars.
After the vote, James C. May, president and chief executive of the Air Transport Assn., said, “Despite what its proponents have said, this provision in the energy bill has not been supported by any demonstrable energy savings. To the contrary, extending daylight saving time will have a significant cost, causing severe schedule disruptions that affect not just the airlines, but their customers as well.”