Moniz to weigh in as House leaders air comprehensive legislative 

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 1, 2015

House lawmakers will hear from top Department of Energy officials this week about the evolving energy bill that could hit the floor by this summer.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz kicks things off tomorrow with an appearance before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power to brief members on DOE’s recently completed Quadrennial Energy Review and offer his thoughts on the more than half-dozen draft bills the committee has released. On Wednesday and Thursday, the subcommittee convenes a two-day hearing on the bill’s efficiency and accountability provisions.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) have been working all year to assemble comprehensive energy legislation aimed at boosting supplies, shoring up infrastructure, promoting efficiency and reforming existing energy policies, along with other priorities.

“Our work to construct the Architecture of Abundance is on the fast track. The sooner we get the job done the sooner that we will realize the nation’s fullest energy potential — creating jobs and keeping prices affordable,” Upton and Whitfield said in a statement. “Our important discussion on accountability and energy efficiency will round out what is shaping up to be a banner week in our continued efforts to bring our energy policies into the 21st century.”

Architects of the energy bill hope to attract bipartisan support and move a bill through the House before the August recess, although it remains to be seen whether they can attract significant buy-in from across the aisle and steer clear of items that would draw a presidential veto, such as attempting to use the bill to block U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Committee Democrats complained earlier this spring about provisions in the House efficiency draft that would have delayed a new energy-saving rule for residential furnaces, limited DOE’s involvement in developing model building codes and reversed a directive for the government to phase out its use of fossil energy in new buildings (E&E Daily, May 1).

House Republicans last week floated a new “accountability” subtitle that will receive its first airing at the hearing. Among other items, it would direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to more quickly share “exculpatory” information with firms it is investigating, and direct regional transmission organizations to develop market rules that prioritize aspects such as “reliability” in rate-making decisions, an apparent response to utility concerns over net metering and distributed generation.

The accountability title also includes language that appears to fall in line with a proposal that Berkshire Hathaway Energy floated last month to limit the circumstances in which utilities have to purchase electricity from cogeneration or small renewable power facilities. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, bristled at the suggestion when it was aired during a hearing in the upper chamber last month.

Moniz had been scheduled to testify on the QER last month, but a delayed health care markup forced the committee to reschedule. Upton said the delay would not prevent the committee from reaching its goal of having energy legislation to the House floor by the end of this month (E&ENews PM, May 20).