Energy reform bill compromise stalled, House committee official says

Prospects for a joint US House-Senate conference to send compromise energy-reform legislation to the White House before yearend are growing dim because so many significant disagreements have remained unresolved, a House Natural Resources Committee official said.

Several House members believe Senate appropriations in the measure are too high, and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) strongly opposes reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation fund that Maria E. Cantwell (D-Wash.) and other senators want, said Bill Cooper, the House committee’s majority staff director for the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee.

“There may be a desire to wait and possibly take it up again in 2017,” he told the Natural Gas Roundtable on Nov. 29. His remarks came several days after Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) and Cantwell, the committee’s ranking minority member, jointly resubmitted many of their original provisions to the joint committee (OGJ Online, Nov. 28, 2016).

Cooper, who was president of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas before being named to the Natural Resources Committee’s majority staff, said he was surprised that a provision aimed at accelerating US LNG exports was not more in play because it had strong bipartisan support when the House and Senate each passed a bill.

He expressed hope that LNG exports language would become attached to another measure headed for US President Barack Obama’s desk during the lame-duck session. “In my view, it would be a rainy day in Mudville if it doesn’t,” Cooper said, adding that there’s growing pressure for Congress to pass a continuing resolution instead before it adjourns so the federal government can keep operating.

He also said that it’s growing increasingly likely that the 115th Congress will use the Congressional Review Act to try and roll back several regulations agencies in the Obama administration imposed during its final year.

“Priorities would need to be set because time is constrained,” Cooper said, adding that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s methane emissions limits and the White House Conference on Environmental Quality’s greenhouse gas emissions guidelines for federal agencies might be good candidates.

Asked if the next Congress would try to reform the National Environmental Policy Act, Cooper responded that something probably will be done, possibly starting with removing EPA’s exemption from having to comply with NEPA’s requirements that became apparent when the agency dealt with a spill that it caused.

“The incoming administration looks as if it will be more receptive to building out infrastructure for oil, gas, and even coal,” Cooper said. “We’ll have to see.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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