Sweeping package passes House, faces turbulent road

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporte • Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015

The House passed the Energy and Commerce Committee’s broad energy legislation yesterday, sending the Senate a bill aimed at modernizing the electric grid and speeding natural gas exports.

Lawmakers voted 249-174 to approve H.R. 8, the “North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015,” with the support of nine Democrats. Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky voted against the bill.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) warned his colleagues they would go down in history as the “greatest ignoramuses of all time” for ignoring climate change, offering a last-minute procedural move to stop the bill.

“Sticking our heads in the sand, pretending a serious problem will go away on its own, doing nothing in the face of a grave threat, is not the American way, and it never was,” Cartwright said.

But House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) boasted the bill would promote access to affordable, reliable energy by improving the infrastructure that was already in place so it can withstand new threats. Thanks to innovation, Upton said, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have “significantly declined” and will continue to decline as a share of worldwide emissions.

The energy panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, cautioned the sweeping package could have negative impacts “on the environment, on air pollution and on climate change.” Lawmakers rejected his amendment, 181-243, to prohibit the measure from taking effect until the U.S. Energy Information Administration had analyzed and scored its carbon impact.

Despite today’s passage in the House, some energy analysts said the legislation has a turbulent road ahead, given the Obama administration’s veto threats (E&E Daily, Dec. 1).

ClearView Energy Partners LLC’s Kevin Book wrote in a note to clients yesterday that the bill was unlikely to be enacted into law with or without the addition of language to scrap the nation’s decades-old ban on exporting domestic crude oil. Book also said the likelihood of members lifting the export ban during this session of Congress stands at a meager 15 percent.

“We regard H.R. 8 as just as unlikely to make its way to the President’s desk with crude exports language as it was without crude exports language,” Book wrote.

Yesterday, lawmakers attached 27 amendments to the bill, including a contentious amendment from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to allow international sales of crude oil. The House also added an amendment offered by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) that would consolidate federal permit reviews of cross-border infrastructure projects that stalled the Keystone XL pipeline for years (E&E Daily, Dec. 3).

The League of Conservation Voters urged a “no” vote, warning yesterday in a letterto lawmakers that the bill “further entrenches fossil fuels while failing to make the necessary clean energy investments for our future.” A provision that would allow pipelines to be built on national park land without what they say are necessary environmental reviews also drew their ire.

Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.