Earlier than expected, the Senate is considering a highly anticipated bipartisan energy bill this week. The first broad package of energy legislation in over a decade, the bill proposes many adjustments to current energy policy. The bill will be conducted with an open amendment process — which presents many opportunities for interested parties as any and all environmental- and energy-related amendments may be offered and voted on in the coming weeks as the bill is debated.
Possible Amendments to the Energy Bill
The open amendment process would allow the energy bill to address any number of recent issues that have come up, from reining in federal regulations to overturning decisions made over the last several years. Typically in open floor processes such as this, hundreds of amendments will be offered but only a fraction will receive floor votes. This promises to be a situation like last year’s open debate on the Keystone pipeline which saw over 247 amendments offered and votes on 42. In fact, many of the issues which surfaced during the Keystone debate will likely be reconsidered since the President vetoed that legislation. This time around the goal of Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell is to produce a bill they think the President will sign. Some possible issues include:
All of these issues will be considered – what remains unseen is which ones will receive floor votes and make it into the bill. Additionally, any amendment that is highly controversial or partisan would run the risk of derailing the bill or ensuring a presidential veto — particularly in areas that would significantly impact the President’s climate initiatives. Keeping a close eye on the amendments as the bill develops is a priority at FaegreBD Consulting, and we will work with our allies on Capitol Hill to stay ahead of the curve as new amendments are offered and new information becomes available.
Energy Bill Summary
The Energy Policy and Modernization Act of 2015 covers a wide range of topics and is designed to work in conjunction with the energy provisions passed in the 2015 Appropriations Omnibus. Among the important provisions included are measures to expedite the permitting of natural gas exports, enhance grid security to protect from cyberattacks, improve energy efficiency in the manufacturing process, provide funding for residential weatherization programs, provide funding for research in the Department of Energy on vehicle fuel efficiency and addresses next-generation nuclear technology. Outlined below are some of the key provisions featured in the bill:
The streamlining of permitting for infrastructure related to natural gas exports would expand upon the Omnibus provision that lifted the moratorium on exporting oil and gas to improve upon the ability for natural gas producers to build the necessary infrastructure needed to reach foreign markets. The U.S. is now one of the largest natural gas producers in the world, and our excess supply and inability to export has pushed prices artificially low. The ability to begin the export process from Liquefied Natural Gas would help equalize domestic gas markets while allowing producers access to foreign markets where gas sells for a much higher rate. This would have the dual effect of relieving some of the commodity price pressure on baseload energy production at home while also opening an entirely new export market to the U.S. trade sheet.
At FaegreBD Consulting, we are closely monitoring the advancement of the Energy Bill. The bill is currently enjoying bipartisan support, and due to the broad scope of its content, anyone involved in energy or the environment should keep an eye on its progress.