Conference committee formed on Murkowski's energy bill

The Energy Policy Modernization Act is in conference committee to stitch U.S. House of Representatives and Senate versions together after approval on July 12.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will serve as the conference committee’s chair along with six other senators: John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. 

The House conferee list of 24 members includes Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young; Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich..; and Natural Resources Committee chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah.

Citing a previous record of the bill’s bipartisan Senate support, Murkowski said she believes the committee can make a solid enough compromise to pass the bill by the end of the year.

“While we have differences to resolve, I am confident we are up to the task,” said Murkowski in a statement. “Our bicameral negotiations will begin immediately so that a good final bill can be signed into law this year.” 

The conference committee will have to overcome a House bill version that attracted seven presidential veto threats over several additions that give more water rights to California farmers and cut National Institute of Standards and Technology spending beneath the president’s request, among other points of contention with White House policies.  

Senate Democrats including Cantwell, the Energy And Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, expressed displeasure with the House bill additions, saying it compromises an otherwise solid bill in the name of Republican pet projects.

The bill — the first energy policy overhaul since 2007 — includes provisions for renewable energy production for wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy, and to ease Alaska’s oil and mineral development processes.

The Secretary of Energy would have to make a decision on any liquefied natural gas export application within 45 days after completion of environmental review, along with similar permitting revisions for mineral development.

Murkowski has acknowledged in the past that President Barack Obama’s administration had only lukewarm support for the Senate version, but said that the Secretary of Energy is helping her office write language for the bill’s LNG permitting aspect illustrates the administration’s willingness to accept certain provisions.

The Senate version passed 85-12 with several Alaska-specific provisions.

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

07/13/2016 - 11:35am