Murkowski plans to start moving broad bill next week

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

After months of hearings and discussion over more than a hundred bills, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said today she anticipates her committee will begin marking up a comprehensive energy package next week.

“We are pretty much on track,” she told E&ENews PM this afternoon. “We’re hoping we’ll be able to keep our schedule for markups next week and the following week. That’s the plan.”

The committee will hold four markups over two weeks to meet Murkowski’s goal of completing the bill before the August recess. Each markup will focus on one of the four titles of the bill, which addresses infrastructure, supply, accountability and efficiency.

Murkowski said she’ll meet tomorrow with ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to discuss the bill, which she acknowledged remains under construction.

“We’re going to hopefully clear up some of the outstanding issues,” she said. “So I can’t say that we’ve got text that we can commit to right now because we’ve got to get a few things worked out.”

A Cantwell spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Cantwell is leading efforts by Senate Democrats to write their own energy bill before August, a marker that is expected to guide the minority when the broader package hits the floor later this year (E&E Daily, July 7).

That effort will span the jurisdictions of multiple panels, including Finance, on which Cantwell sits.

Among the topics for discussion when the two senators meet is whether to include provisions addressing the crude oil exports ban, which Murkowski wants to overturn.

“That’s something that we’re engaged in [for] further discussion,” she said.

Supporters of ending the ban are pointing to the deal announced today that would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for steps intended to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons (Greenwire, July 14).

Republicans have criticized the agreement as doing too little to block Iran from eventually going nuclear, promising to vigorously examine the agreement during the 80-day congressional review period prescribed by a law enacted earlier this year.

The Senate Republican Policy Committee this afternoon highlighted the potential effects of eased sanctions, which would allow Iran to increase its oil exports while U.S. producers are hamstrung by the 40-year ban on crude exports.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) echoed the talking point earlier today.

“It seems ironic that the administration would want to lift sanctions on Iran’s oil and maintain the sanctions on our own domestic production,” he told reporters. “That makes no sense to me.”