After some ‘finesse,’ reform bill coming soon — Murkowski

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2017

The leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will soon reintroduce a revised comprehensive energy package they hope will avoid the fate of last year’s predecessor, which expired in the closing days of the 114th Congress after months of formal talks with the House collapsed.

ENR Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday she and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are close to unveiling an updated version of legislation that passed the Senate 85-12 last April.

That bill included broad provisions to address energy efficiency, infrastructure and the conservation side of the panel’s jurisdiction.

“I am hoping sooner rather than later,” she told E&E News.

The pair had hoped to unveil the updated bill a month ago, but Murkowski said “there were some issues that we needed to finesse.”

Changes stem from the months of conference talks, which ended in December after House negotiators walked away from the table.

At the time, House conferees said the election of Donald Trump as president dampened enthusiasm for negotiating with Democrats and the Obama administration, brushing off warnings from Murkowski and Cantwell that nearly two years of work would be lost (E&E Daily, Dec. 8, 2016).

Murkowski yesterday said the new bill will mirror the previous legislation but will reflect some of the give-and-take from the conference talks.

“There are some of the things that will be different, but it’s the core of what we were operating off of last year,” she said. “And that’s what allows us to move forward with it in a way that says we have a package that’s been worked through, it’s almost like it’s been pre-conferenced.”

‘No deal-breakers’

Changes under discussion in recent weeks were to the legislation’s efficiency title, an area that both the House and Senate versions addressed but in different ways (E&E Daily, June 14).

“There’s no deal-breakers there, but what we were trying to do was just get to as much consensus as possible,” Murkowski said of efficiency provisions.

She signaled the revised package will once again include a “shot clock,” imposing a deadline on the Energy Department to make final decisions on applications to export liquefied natural gas.

House proponents of LNG exports this month said they were holding off on reintroducing bills to expedite shipments until the administration completes a review of the application process (E&E Daily, June 8).

“I still feel that it’s important to have this in language even with the assurances that there’s going to be a better process with this administration,” Murkowski said.

Cantwell yesterday signaled that discussions over changes to the bill continue, but she echoed Murkowski’s desire to see the effort move past the finish line.

“She and I would love to get things done,” she said, adding, “It’s hard to understand what our colleagues in the House are thinking.”


House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) have both signaled interest in revisiting the energy bills, including as part of an infrastructure package desired by President Trump.

Energy and Commerce Vice Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas), who shepherded a broad energy package into law in 2005 while chairman, made no mention of the energy bill during a video presentation on agenda items presented during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event yesterday.

A top goal is increasing energy security. “We’re going to modernize the electrical grid and make sure that we can prevent potential cyberattacks,” Barton said.

Another priority is nuclear waste. The committee has been moving forward with legislation that would advance the controversial Yucca Mountain repository (Greenwire, June 15).

“We’re going to hopefully pass a law that finally gets high-level nuclear waste moving, so we move it out of reactor sites to a central repository first on an interim basis, then on a permanent basis,” Barton said.

He also hinted at upcoming efforts to reorganize DOE and EPA.

“I think the Department of Energy should regain some of its jurisdiction over environmental policy,” Barton said. “The EPA still has responsibility for implementing the law, but energy and environment are so intertwined that I think we need to rebalance that equation so the Energy Department is more in line.”

He also touted the committee’s work on research within DOE.

“I think you can look at the research arm of the Department of Energy, oil and gas, and of course alternative energy. We’ve had great success with our solar energy and wind energy programs, and I think we will continue to look at that,” Barton said.