Energy panel votes to send broad policy bill to Senate floor

The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee sent the broad energy policy bill developed by Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) and Ranking Minority Member Maria E. Cantwell (D-Wash.) to the full Senate for final debate by 18 to 4 votes on July 30. Eight committee Democrats joined 10 Republicans in supporting it, Murkowski said.

Her stand-alone bill, which would end the 40-year-old US ban on exporting US-produced oil and expand federal offshore oil and gas revenue sharing to Alaska, southern Mid-Atlantic coastal states, and more of the US Gulf Coast passed later in the day by a narrower margin (OGJ Online, July 31, 2015).

“Our committee took bold steps today to update and modernize our nation’s energy policies,” Murkowski said. “Our broad energy bill drew overwhelming bipartisan support, and a majority of our committee supported my legislation to expand revenue sharing, increase offshore development, and lift the oil export ban. I’m very proud of what we accomplished today, and just as proud of how we accomplished it.”

The measure largely skirted oil and gas issues, but did include language from an earlier bill, S. 33, which would require the US Energy Secretary to make a final decision on whether an LNG export project is in the national interest within 45 days of its completing a National Environmental Policy Act review.

“As study after study has shown, American LNG exports will grow our nation’s economy, create jobs, and increase the energy security of key US allies and partners,” said John A. Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who cosponsored the original bill on Jan. 6 with Martin T. Heinrich (D-NM). “That’s why support for these exports continues to grow among Democrats, Republicans, and the White House.”

Warren’s amendment

The committee also approved, by 13 to 9 votes, member Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) amendment requiring that the US Energy Secretary study LNG exports’ impacts on consumers and the economy in consultation with the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners and the National Association of State Energy Officials.

“This amendment will ensure that as we consider these policy changes, we have the best information available about how these exports might affect consumers, manufacturers, and our economy, particularly in regions like New England that currently import this gas,” Warren said following its adoption.

The US House passed legislation with similar language to expedite LNG export project approvals earlier in the year (OGJ Online, Jan. 28, 2015). Oil and gas associations and other business groups expressed their approval of the Senate committee’s July 30 action.

“In particular, the bill's provisions to provide greater certainty for natural gas infrastructure permitting and for LNG export approvals will better allow our nation to take advantage of the many opportunities associated with our abundant natural gas resource,” America’s Natural Gas Alliance Pres. Martin J. Durbin said on July 30.

“We commend the committee and its staff for their tireless efforts in moving this important legislation, and look forward to seeing it progress to the Senate floor,” he said.

Outlines benefits

Natural Gas Supply Association Pres. Dena E. Wiggins also commended the committee for voting to make the LNG export approval process more efficient and timely. “Streamlining the approval process for LNG export applications from the US can create tens of thousands of American jobs and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, while preserving a competitive advantage for American manufacturers,” she said.

The bill includes strong provisions to help train US workers for the next generation of energy jobs, American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice-Pres. Louis Finkel noted. “As Congress moves forward, we hope that additional improvements can be made to accelerate investments in US energy infrastructure and address broken policies, like the Renewable Fuel Standard,” he said.

“From expediting the licensing of gas exports to focusing federal research and development on energy challenges of tomorrow, this legislation makes great strides in addressing dated and counterproductive policies,” said Karen A. Harbert, who is president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

“For months, the committee has diligently worked on a series of proposals that will strengthen American energy,” Harbert said. “The process they followed is a model for how Congress is supposed to operate, and is a refreshing change from the last several years.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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