Legislative Activity

Keystone Legislative Action Continues Amid Veto Threat, Legal Action

Last Thursday, on January 8, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the “Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act” with a 13-9 vote. One day later, the House voted on Friday, January 9 to approve identical legislation by a 266-153 vote, with 28 Democratic members voting to support the bill. That afternoon Senate Republican leaders scheduled a vote for Monday, January 12 to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to floor consideration. Senate Republican leaders are planning to allow a traditional, open amendment process that could last days if not weeks once the Senate begins the floor consideration process.

Of course, Congress is now considering the Keystone legislation despite the White House’s release of a statement of administration policy (SAP) indicating that the President’s senior advisors will urge him to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act upon presentment. In the SAP, the White House argues: “H.R. 3 seeks to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines serve the national interest by authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline project prior to the completion of the Presidential Permitting process. In doing so, it would cut short consideration of important issues relevant to the national interest.” The White House also argues that the legislation is premature because of “uncertainty due to ongoing litigation in Nebraska.”

However, the Nebraska Supreme Court eliminated remaining legal uncertainty surrounding the Keystone XL route on Friday, January 9 by vacating a lower court’s decision that found Nebraska’s legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline route violated the State’s constitution. The White House reiterated after the decision that the veto threat will stand regardless of the Nebraska Supreme Court decision, and Congress will continue to press forward regardless. As a consequence, Congress is likely heading towards a veto stand-off with the President in the event that 60 or more Senators ultimately vote in favor of the Keystone legislation and present it to the President. .

Senators Barrasso and Heinrich Introduce LNG Export Reform Legislation

Last Tuesday, January 6, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (R-NM) introduced the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act,” legislation that seeks to reform the Department of Energy’s procedure for considering liquefied natural gas (LNG) export applications. The legislation would require the Department of Energy to issue a final decision regarding an LNG export application for export to countries that are not party to a free trade agreement with the U.S. either: (1) 45 days after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completes its environmental review process for the project; or (2) the date of enactment for the legislation. Additionally, the legislation would require a successful applicant to disclose to DOE the countries of destination to which the exported LNG is likely will be delivered. The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee will likely hold a legislative hearing on Senator Barrasso’s legislation by the end of this month, according to Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (D-AK).

Regulatory Activity

The EPA Revises Plans to Release GHG Final Rules

Last Wednesday, January 7, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will release final rules to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new and existing power plants at one time, as early as June of 2015. The agency also announced the launch of a proposed rule to develop model GHG emission reduction plans for state governments to use for compliance purposes when and if the new GHG rules go into effect. The agency also updated future milestone dates for implementation of the GHG rules, including: (1) a proposed summer 2016 due date for states to submit compliance plans to the EPA for the Clean Power Plan; (2) a proposed summer 2017 due date for states to submit compliance if those states have received a one-year extension; (3) a proposed summer 2018 due date for multi-state compliance plans; and (4) a proposed summer of 2020 due date for of Clean Power Plan compliance and implementation.