Senate weighs response to House offer

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Senate energy reform bill conferees are reviewing a Friday counteroffer from House negotiators, as efforts to break a decadelong stalemate on major energy legislation come down to the wire.

The House proposal “reflects policies that represent the current bipartisan consensus in the House,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) in a joint statement Friday evening.

“We welcome any suggestions from the Senate and remain open to continuing to work with our Senate colleagues and concluding this conference in a productive manner,” said the pair.

The proposal comes after Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told reporters last week that the House had signaled a desire to pare back the scope of the conference talks.

Among the items in doubt were provisions to address natural gas exports, efficiency, innovation, critical minerals, pipeline permitting, hydropower and a sportsmen’s package (E&E Daily, Nov. 18).

House and Senate aides declined to comment on the contents of the new language, but it has the support of Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), said a panel Democratic aide, who described it as a “unified bipartisan counteroffer.”

Democratic support suggests the House has followed through on expectations to scale back the scope of the conference push given that Pallone has never been particularly enthusiastic about the House bill.

During opening remarks at the sole public meeting of the energy conference, Pallone in September pledged to continue working on the effort but warned that “we must be honest with ourselves about our limited ability to resolve highly contentious and complex matters in the short time frame we have.”

After huddling with Murkowski, Cantwell, Pallone and Upton last week, Bishop suggested that the areas that have been agreed to are relatively minor.

Still, Murkowski and Cantwell said drought and forest management issues were among the more contentious areas on which negotiators had made progress in recent weeks.

Following the election, Republican conferees on both sides of the Capitol have acknowledged that the appetite for making concessions to Democrats and the Obama-led White House has diminished. President-elect Donald Trump is seen as more receptive to GOP energy priorities.