Senate bill arrives; markups on tap next week

Source: Geof Koss and Hannah Northey, E&E reporters • Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon will introduce its long-awaited bipartisan energy package, with two markups slated to kick off next week.

The “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015” marks the first aisle-crossing effort in years to break through a legislative stalemate on energy policy. It has a heavy emphasis on modernizing energy infrastructure, encouraging efficiency, and increasing supplies of renewables and traditional energy sources, while also looking to boost the security of the electric grid from cyberattacks.

The measure also addresses the “resources” component of the panel’s jurisdiction by permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund and establishing a National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund.

“There’s a lot in the bill,” a GOP aide told reporters this afternoon of the more than 350-page bill.

As expected, the legislation heavily borrows from the efficiency bill sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). The committee’s bill would repeal a contentious provision from a 2007 energy law that requires new or renovated federal buildings to phase out fossil fuel energy by 2030, according to a section-by-section summary.

The efficiency title includes numerous provisions to boost energy savings across the government, including the codification of an executive order that requires federal agencies to reduce energy intensity in buildings by 2.5 percent over 10 years.

The infrastructure title aims to boost the security of the grid from cyberattacks, notably by providing the Energy Department with first-time emergency authority to protect the bulk-power system from cybersecurity threats. The bill also would codify DOE as the “sector-specific agency” for cybersecurity for the energy sector.

The bill also would take steps to modernize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while prescribing what aides call “narrow” criteria for “acceptable uses” of oil sales from the reserves, which have to be related to energy security.

Under the bill, DOE would be required to make final decisions on natural gas export applications within 45 days of the completion of National Environmental Policy Act reviews by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or Maritime Administration.

The “supply” title includes extensive provisions for expediting the permitting process for hydropower, a favored energy source for Energy Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Geothermal, marine hydrokinetic and biomass also would get a boost in the supply title, which also would reauthorize research programs on methane hydrates. When it comes to coal, the bill has a section promoting DOE research and development associated with trapping and storing fossil fuel power plant carbon emissions.

The legislation includes another long-standing Murkowski priority — securing the supply and research associated with minerals necessary for energy development and economic growth, including rare earth elements. Provisions mirror those in her S. 883.

The accountability title would require applicants to DOE’s loan guarantee program to pay at least one-quarter of the credit subsidy fee that the administration assigns to cover the financial risks to taxpayers.

GOP aides said markups on the measure are planned for Tuesday and July 30, with the possibility of additional sessions during the first week of August if needed.

Click here for a one-page summary of the bill.

Click here for a section-by-section summary.

Reporter Manuel Quiñones contributed.