As Congress wraps up its final days of activity prior to the August recess — which runs from July 30 (House) or Aug. 7 (Senate) to Sept. 7 — both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are developing broad bipartisan energy packages.
The Senate bill, which has been released in draft form, contains the provisions of S. 33, the LNG permitting bill sponsored by Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and 16 other senators from both political parties.
As reported previously, S. 33 would set a deadline for the Secretary of Energy to make a final determination on applications to export LNG to nations that do not have free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States. The deadline would come within 45 days after the final environmental documents have been released for the project in question.
Energy Committee chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the text of the “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015” on July 22. The bill includes five titles: (1) efficiency; (2) infrastructure; (3) supply; (4) accountability; and (5) conservation. The language from S. 33 is contained within the infrastructure title.
Next week, the committee will hold two business meetings, on July 28 and 30, to consider the EMPA.
The Hill also quotes Murkowski as saying that the committee will vote before the August recess on a second bill that includes oil exports and state revenue sharing for offshore oil and natural gas drilling. “[Offshore] revenue sharing and oil exports are very keen priorities of mine,” Murkowski told reporters Thurs. (July 23). “I do a have a bill, it’s a consolidated bill, and it’s my intention that bill will move through the committee markup process before we adjourn for the August break.”
The House bill, which was marked up by the Energy and Power Subcommittee on Wed. Jul. 22 does not include a similar LNG provision. However, SNL Energy quoted Frank J. Macchiarola, executive vice president for government affairs at America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) saying that he expects the LNG export procedures to be added to the House bill at a subsequent stage of the process.
And, after the House markup, Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) said: “I am proud to say that this is the first attempt to put together a broad bipartisan energy package in nearly a decade. While a lot of work remains to be done, I am pleased that today’s draft starts on the right foot with broad bipartisan support. While it does not encompass the entire universe of issues on the table, staffs and Members will continue discussions over the next several weeks in order to advance a broader package when we return in September.”
Sen. Cornyn on Senate Timing on Energy Exports
On July 23, the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a session with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), who spoke on the issue of: Energy for Our Allies: Harnessing the Power of American Energy to Strengthen Our Allies and Deter Our Enemies.
During the question and answer session, I had the following exchange with Sen. Cornyn:
Question: “Senator, Fred Hutchison from LNG Allies. First of all, thank you for your leadership on the energy exports issue. Yesterday, Sens. Murkowski and Cantwell released a draft energy bill that includes the provisions of S. 33, which you are cosponsoring. As you know, those provisions would be very helpful to the US LNG industry. On the House-side, Rep. Fred Upton’s bill is likely to contain similar language. On a scale from highly likely to likely to improbable, what do you think the prospects are for Congress passing a major energy bill on a bipartisan basis this year?”
Answer: “I know that Sen. Murkowski, who is a proponent of lifting the ban on crude, left that out of [the EMPA] bill and I suspect that the reason she did so was because she probably couldn’t get Sen. Cantwell to work with her on [the crude oil] issue. The fact that the LNG provisions are in the bill should be taken as a sign of encouragement… [And,] the fact that Sen. Cantwell — who is an influential member of the Democratic Caucus — and six other Democrats are supporting [S. 33] is another good sign.
“When your job is like mine — to count the votes — the number six is ‘magical’ when it comes to the Democrats because if you add six to 54 Republicans, then you have enough [votes] to get cloture. That means that you can actually have an up-or-down vote on a piece of legislation. Of course, it’s never quite that simple, but I am somewhat encouraged and I would love to see us expedite the exporting of LNG…
“I can’t give you a timetable because this Fall may be kind of ‘bumpy’ since we’re going to be tied up in everything from appropriations fights over the spending caps from the Budget Control Act and sequestration to the debt ceiling [and other] issues which will eat up a lot of ‘oxygen.’ But, again, the fact that Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Murkowski are working together and [if they can] get a good bipartisan bill out [of committee, that could enable] the Majority Leader to bring it to the [Senate] floor… if not this Fall, then shortly thereafter.”
“To me, one of the most exciting things about the energy sector is how — just a few years ago — people were talking about importing and now… we’re talking about turning those [import terminals] around to export natural gas and hopefully crude. That says a lot about American innovation and entrepreneurship.”