House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski have been working jointly on a passable energy bill. The Congressmen have also been coordinating with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to ensure the bill will not get vetoed at the President’s desk.
On infrastructure, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (the Senate version) aims to modernize the electricity grid and add cybersecurity safeguards. There are also provisions to streamline the process for natural gas export projects and maintain the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The bill provides for the “responsible development of American resources”, to include hydropower, geothermal and bioenergy, as well as traditional resources. Surprisingly, the act creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund to fix the maintenance backlog of the nation’s public parks (the park delayed an estimated $11.5 billion worth of maintenance last year alone).
The drafters of the bill chose to avoid big button issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline, allowing the exportation of crude oil and climate change.
The inclusion of maintaining the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is in direct contrast to the transportation bill being presented by the Senate, which offers to sell part of the reserve to fund the Highway Trust Fund.
This week, 11 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have come out against the bill stating that several provisions in the bill could cause detrimental effects to public health and the environment. The groups seemed specifically opposed to expediting liquefied natural gas exports and mineral mining permits because they felt “a stronger vision for accelerating the development and deployment of clean energy” was needed. The House bill received less opposition from these groups since it did not include measures on hydropower and liquefied natural gas exportation.