The US House on Dec. 3 approved by a 249-174 vote an energy bill with provisions to authorize crude oil exports and facilitate natural gas pipeline construction. Members cast ballots largely along party lines, with nine Democrats joining Republicans in favor of the measure, and three Republicans siding with Democrats against it.
HR 8’s chances of becoming law appeared dim, however, because it acquired the crude export provision when the House added it as an amendment a day earlier. The White House said it opposes that concept, and the US Senate does not appear ready to take the matter up.
Officials from oil and gas trade associations and other business groups still welcomed the bill’s passage. “A major update to our energy policy hasn’t occurred since 2007,” American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice-Pres. for Government Affairs Louis Finkel said.
“This legislation will help bring US energy policy into the 21st century, allowing the US to compete with nations like Iran and promoting the infrastructure we need to bring affordable, reliable energy to consumers,” Finkel said.
Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell noted that this was the second time in 2015 that the House voted to eliminate the 40-year-old ban on exporting domestically produced crude.
“With the loss of 250,000 American oil and gas jobs this year, along with Iran looking to reenter the international oil market, our nation’s oil and gas industry faces an urgent situation,” he said.
Producers for American Crude Oil Exports Pres. George Baker noted, “There continues to be bipartisan support for lifting the ban as policymakers from across the political spectrum recognize the significant economic, employment, and national security benefits this change in policy will have on our economy.”
Officials from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and the Business Roundtable also cited the crude exports provision as they applauded the bill’s passage.
The measure also included provisions aimed at facilitating construction of more gas pipelines and increasing exports of liquefied natural gas.
Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Pres. Donald F. Santa said the country needs a bigger pipeline system which is capable of moving its abundant supplies to markets more efficiently. “This legislation takes modest steps to improve the pipeline permitting process, while respecting the obligation to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws,” he said, adding, “We hope the Senate takes prompt action on similar legislation.”
A Center for Liquefied Natural Gas spokesman said that HR 8 would bring clarity to the LNG exporting permit process by imposing a deadline for the US Department of Energy to act on applications. “Regulatory certainty is crucial to fostering export capacity growth because LNG project developers must commit millions of dollars just to complete the permitting process, before spending billions on the facilities themselves,” the CLNG spokesman observed.
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