UPDATE (1:00 p.m.): The Senate will begin voting Thursday afternoon on 30 amendments to the highway bill under a deal struck Wednesday night, which includes the Menendez measure. It and several other controversial amendments that are not directly related to the highway funding issue will require 60 votes to pass. Although voting is expected to begin at 2:15 p.m., the Senate is not expected to finish voting on all amendments until next week.
UPDATE (10:30 a.m.): The Senate is scheduled to vote on an agreement reached last night at 2:15pm. The agreement includes Nat Gas Act, Keystone-XL pipeline, off shore drilling and more.
WASHINGTON ??? Congress could pass what is dubbed the Nat Gas act as early as March 31, which will polish the fortunes of Westport Innovations of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and the Democratic donors who own it.
This lucrative connection has gone unnoticed and unexamined in Senate debate this week. More alarming, the House has indicated it is ready to move forward on the Senate version with little evaluation.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R ??? Ky.) said Wednesday the House could pass the Senate???s version of the transportation bill if House Republicans fail to produce a better alternative.
This favorable provision was quickly and quietly added March 5 when Sen. Robert ???Bob??? Menendez (D ??? N.J.) introduced an amendment to the transportation bill that included provisions from a bill he introduced to the Senate in November, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions act, or Natural Gas act.
Less than a day after the Menendez amendment was filed, an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D ??? Nev.) to reach cloture failed. Although Wednesday???s Senate debate raised amendments both sides agree are unrelated to the bill itself, the Menendez Amendment ??? aka the Nat Gas act ??? is a hidden gem for Democrats and two of their most generous supporters.
The Nat Gas act mirrors President Barack Obama???s own proposals and a likewise titled bill introduced to the House April 6 by Rep. John Sullivan (R ??? Okla.) All three would provide tax credits to individuals and companies that buy natural gas vehicles or build natural gas distribution facilities.
The Senate version would make 100 percent of the cost of building natural gas stations tax deductible and would create a spike in demand for natural gas engine systems such as those offered by Westport???a NASDAQ traded company whose top investors include George Soros and Kevin G. Douglas, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Both Soros and Douglas have given considerable sums of money to President Barack Obama and Democrats in recent years, according to Federal Election Commission records. Douglas and his wife Michelle M. contributed more than $130,000 to President Barack Obama and Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records.
What???s more, Douglas and his wife Michelle April 8 gave $71,600 to the Chicago-based Super Pac, Obama Victory Fund 2012, one week after Obama introduced his ???National Clean Fleets Partnership??? April 1 at a Landover, Md. UPS facility. The president introduced his plan in the presence of at least one Westport-made engine system.
The largest individual shareholder in Westport is Kevin G. Douglas, whose 2,990.431 shares are worth more than $125 million. With his wife Michelle, the couple own, directly and indirectly, 17 percent of Westport, according to the couple???s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As of Feb. 9, Douglas and his wife also own an 8.9 percent position in Fuel Systems Solutions, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based company specializing in production of natural gas fuel and engine systems, according to federal filings.
???Westport and Fuel systems do not compete directly because the companies each focus on two different parts of the market for natural gas vehicles,??? said Robert D. Brown, a stock analyst at Minneapolis-based Craig-Hallum Capital. Brown follows both companies.
While Westport offers both light-duty and heavy-duty engine systems, Fuel Systems focuses more on light-duty systems, said Brown. Heavy-duty natural gas engines compete with diesel engines and light-duty competes with gasoline.
The analyst said the failure to pass the subsidies in the Nat Gas Act language would significantly hurt Westport’s financial health and stock price. But, passage of the proposals made in the Nat Gas Act would accelerate the development of the market for natural gas vehicles.
Both Westport and Fuel Systems have entered partnerships with General Motors, itself a beneficiary of government funding, in the past 10 months, the analyst said.
Westport???s June 28 agreement is to develop natural gas engine technology and Fuel Systems announced Oct. 26 it will supply General Motors Corp. 1,200 compressed natural gas fuel systems, the automaker???s largest order, he said. He estimated the order to be worth $12 million.
Brown said he estimates that Fuel Systems??? partnership with General Motors Corp. could eventually exceed $50 million in revenue for Fuel Systems.
Westport CEO David R. Demers does not hide his company???s glee over Washington???s willingness to subsidize the market for his company???s product. Following Obama???s April 1 speech, Demers said in a press release his company was uniquely positioned to take advantage of the President???s proposals.
Demers appeared June 28 on CNN???s Mad Money and host Jim Cramer probed him about developments on Capitol Hill.
???You know we love Nat Gas act??? Washington should get on with it,??? said Demers.