Energy and Climate Debate -
The winter weather postponed much congressional and Administrative action on energy, environment, and other issues this week, but the Senate has now officially begun floor debate on the first broad bipartisan energy package in nearly ten years.
The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012), which cleared, 18-4, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last summer, includes, among other things, language to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy infrastructure, and grid security, as well as to impose deadlines on the Department of Energy to make final decisions on natural gas exports, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and expedite the licensing process for hydropower projects. Senate Democrats unveiled an alternative package focused on clean energy last fall that could preview some of the amendments likely to surface during floor debate. Other amendments could include opposition for Obama administration regulations, the validity of climate science, and more. The amendment process, while likely to remain fairly open, will prevent some amendments from being considered germane. There is no guarantee that a bill will move in 2016, though there may be scaled back package, most likely before late fall. After a bipartisan effort fell apart last year in the House, the lower chamber approved its own energy bill (H.R. 8) before the close of the year on a near party line vote. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) said at the beginning of the year that he is open to removing some of the more controversial measures of the package in order to craft a more bipartisan measure. Representative Upton is interested in pursuing a measure that replaces the crude oil export language of the House-passed package with LNG language to reflect the Senate bill as well as return to a more bipartisan approach along the lines of what he had initially intended.
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