House energy bill attracts veto threats

The U.S. House of Representatives approved an amended Energy Policy Modernization Act on May 25 with a cluster of additions opposed by President Barack Obama’s administration and Senate Democrats.

The administration issued seven veto threats against the House version compared to none against the Senate version.

The White House threatened to veto the House’s California drought relief package, their version of America COMPETES, provisions to develop energy on tribal lands, and expressed concerns over the sportsmen’s package and forest fire provisions.

The energy bill’s House version did not enjoy the same bipartisan support the Senate version did. While the Senate version passed by a 85-12 vote, the House version passed along party lines with a 241-178 vote.

The Senate will have to vote on whether to move to a conference committee to reconcile the bills.

Senate Democrats think House Republicans compromised the bill’s potential passage. In an interview with Politico, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the House won’t get what it wants.

“There’s just so much there that’s already been SAP’d by the president,” she said, using an acronym for statement of administration policy. “Why would you send that over if you were serious about getting a bill?”

While Democratic senators expressed disdain for the House version, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s staff said it only presents a step towards compromise.

“While there are some differences in the House and Senate energy bills, that is to be expected, and there is also significant overlap between them,” wrote Nicole Daigle, communications director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources chaired by Murkowski, in an email. “Some are keen to focus on areas where there appear to be disagreements, but there are many more provisions where both chambers are generally in agreement.”

Daigle said Murkowski remains hopeful the House and Senate can work together, echoing earlier statements the senator made to the Journal.

After the Senate passed its bill, Murkowski acknowledged that the administration “hadn’t exactly endorsed the bill.” However, she said the fact 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 bill — the first energy policy overhaul since 2007 — includes provisions for renewable energy production for wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy, as well as provisions to ease Alaska’s oil and mineral development processes.

Permitting reforms are one of the bill’s key components for Alaska’s liquefied natural gas industry.

The bill requires the Secretary of Energy to make a decision on any liquefied natural gas export application within 45 days after completion of environmental review. Similar permitting revisions for mineral development are included. The bill allows for expansion of Terror Lake hydro project on Kodiak Island.

The House added several of its own previously passed bills to the mix. The most contentious concern water use and environmental issues.

One bill would give more water rights to California farmers. The House’s version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, passed by the House in 2015, would cut National Institute of Standards and Technology spending beneath the president’s request.

Other elements of the bill, both in the Senate and House versions, expand public access to federal lands for recreational hunting and fishing purposes, a point of pride for both Murkowski and Alaska Rep. Don Young. The House version also streamlines permitting processes for resource development on tribal lands.

The House and Senate have not yet set a date for the conference committee charged with consolidating the House and Senate versions of the final energy and natural resources legislation, but new appointments give Alaska a double whammy.

The Senate hasn’t yet appointed conferees, but Murkowski chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sponsored the bill. On May 26, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appointed Young to serve on the conference committee.

Young said in a release that the bill isn’t only about energy, but public natural resources. Challenging the administration, he said, is the idea.

“We’ve seen little progress in the face of this administration’s many attempts to lock away our lands and limit responsible resource development,” Young said. “Yesterday’s House-passed energy legislation includes a number of long sought provisions and reforms aimed at ensuring access to critical resources and public lands, streamlining energy development, and eliminating red tape facing our nation’s sportsmen.”

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected].


06/08/2016 - 3:23pm