For the first time since 2007, the U.S. Congress is expected to consider comprehensive energy legislation this autumn and likely into 2016. In the House, the Committee on Energy and Commerce is now working on an energy bill to send to the House floor for consideration, and the House seems likely to pass an energy bill. On the Senate side, energy legislation was reported in July from the Energy Committee, and many in the Senate would like to take up the bill for floor debate this session, although there is much other business with which the Congress must dispense this year, and there may not be time to complete consideration of ambitious energy legislation this year. If not passed this year, energy legislation is likely to get early consideration in the next session of Congress.
The Senate’s the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 includes sections on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability and conservation. The bill seeks to offer policy direction on many of the “hot button” electricity issues, including grid security, cyber security for energy infrastructure, grid storage and micro-grids. On the supply side, the bill seeks to encourage the often forgotten renewables, such as hydropower and geothermal and bio-power. The bill also seeks to re-energize the DOE loan and loan guarantee programs that have been struggling since the support of the Recovery Act expired. The Energy Policy Modernization Act has bipartisan support and may be easily passed if room can be made on the Senate calendar for its consideration.
Senate Energy Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will also be seeking an opportunity for consideration of the Alaska Energy Bill which includes changes in revenue sharing for royalties from offshore oil and gas production from federal waters and lifting the ban on exporting crude oil produced in the U.S. There is strong Republican support for lifting the export ban and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he could be willing to reach a compromise that would allow for the export of crude oil. It is not clear what such a compromise would include.
The House Subcommittee on Energy and Power has unanimously approved the “Architecture of Abundance,” a bill that represents the building blocks of comprehensive energy legislation. That bill includes provisions to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure, ensure a strong diverse energy workforce, enhance energy security through diplomacy and strategic energy partnerships with North American countries and energy efficiency. In the first week of Congressional activity in September, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power approved by voice vote a bill to repeal the ban on exporting crude oil produced in the U.S. And on September 17, the full Energy and Commerce Committee voted in favor of lifting the ban despite the White House saying a few days ahead of that vote that it would not support an outright lifting of the ban.
Over the next few weeks, we will be examining the major components of both the House and Senate legislation, examining how they are alike, how they are different, and to what extent they respond to significant challenges various sectors within the energy industry face.