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Energy Overhaul Legislation Prospects Dim

House lawmakers have worked for months with an agreement between Republican and Democratic leaders of the Energy and Commerce  Committee that they would agree on all changes proposed on the next energy bill.  But last week, with Democrats insisting on stronger climate change language, Chairman Fred Upton turned off the lights on any broad bipartisan agreement on an energy strategy that included four titles.  The result is probably the death of any possibility Congress can pass the first major update in energy legislation since 2007.

The titles included in the legislation are Modernizing and Protecting Infrastructure, 21st Century Workforce, Energy Security and Diplomacy, and Energy Efficiency and Accountability.

As a result, the Committee fell back on making partisan charges across the aisle.  “Now, were faced with a contentious markup that could have been a bill with a very bipartisan product,” Ranking Member Frank Pallone at a committee meeting. Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, retorted that Democrats were not being honest brokers. To be truthful about it, the fact that we were not able to reach an agreement says a lot about this institution and where we found ourselves for whatever reason.”

The new bill released last week is 208 pages long – 113 pages more than the originally proposed package – and contains many provisions Republicans had originally proposed then dropped because of Democratic opposition.  These include changes to Energy Department review timelines and efficiency standards, building code changes and language requiring Energy Department assumptions and models be based on materials that are available to the public. A summary of the Republican amendment is on the Committee Website here.

In opening the markup session, Committee Chairman Fred Upton said, “This is our first attempt at significant energy legislation since 2007 and a great deal has changed in less than a decade. Fears of America running out of energy have been replaced by a once incomprehensible rise in domestic oil and natural gas production. But our laws and regulations need to be updated in order to reflect this new reality.

H.R. 8 presents a unique opportunity to fortify our energy security by reinvesting in the SPR, by hardening and modernizing our nation’s energy infrastructure to withstand 21st century threats like cyber, severe weather, and EMP attacks – we do this while also putting folks back to work. This bill also would help America reap the global benefits of our energy abundance by streamlining the approval of LNG exports and by providing improved coordination on energy diplomacy issues with our North American neighbors.

In addition, there are provisions to reduce energy use by the federal government and make targeted improvements to some of our energy efficiency standards and other federal programs. The final version of the bill reflects many conclusions from DOE’s landmark Quadrennial Energy Review.

America has the resources to become an energy superpower. All we need is the right laws and regulations to enable that to happen. Our goal remains getting something to the President’s desk that will be signed into law, and tomorrow’s vote will be an important milestone in our effort.”