In a speech on Thursday at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) offered four “opportunities” that could represent the starting point for bipartisan negotiations on potential changes to the country’s natural gas policies:

  1. Improvement of pipeline technology that can speed pipeline development and address methane leaks. He warned that if methane leakage is not addressed, the climate advantages of natural gas could be negated.
  2. Innovation to improve natural gas vehicles technology, potentially including more “cutting-edge” research on natural gas vehicles at the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).
  3. Careful consideration of natural gas exports, to avoid price spikes that would harm the manufacturing advantages generated by the low price and availability of gas.
  4. Definition of roles for the federal and state governments, with states having authority to regulate activities below ground, and the federal government in control of disclosure and reporting requirements.

Sen. Wyden added that he would be reaching out to other lawmakers over the August recess to gauge their priorities on the issue. He also said that he is planning to ask the Department of Energy to coordinate with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a review on the effectiveness of FracFocus.org, a disclosure database for fluids used in hydraulic fracturing that is voluntarily populated by operators in many states and required by law or regulation in others.  

Andrew McNamee