• Congress Eyes Bipartisan Energy Bills
  • July 31, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • The House Energy and Commerce committee has been among the most active and successful committees in either chamber, racking up a series of impressive legislative accomplishments. Now the committee turns its attention to a comprehensive energy bill, something that has eluded Congress for years.

    The 95-page bill that House Republicans unveiled late Monday night, however, might not be as comprehensive as many had hoped. Indeed, it side-steps many controversial issues, including the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore drilling, and the repeal of the crude export ban.

    The bill, which many have referred to as a “first step,” passed out of subcommittee unanimously this week.

    Instead of diving head-first into some of the most controversial fights, the bill focuses on issues like electricity reliability by expanding the use of smart grids, expediting natural-gas infrastructure, improving cybersecurity language, and expanding workforce training.

    It’s not by accident that the bill the committee produced avoids the hot button issues. Energy and Commerce members wanted a bipartisan agreement, at least to kick off the process, and bipartisanship on energy is hard to come by once you take even a small step into the details.

    The broad agreement over this non-controversial “first step” isn’t likely to last. Members and staff will use the August recess to hash out a bigger bill, with the hopes of bringing it to the full committee in September. And there will be no shortage of big-ticket items competing for a spot.

    Meanwhile, the Senate also unveiled a bipartisan energy bill this week. The bill was released by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the committee's ranking member.

    The 300-page legislation would set a deadline for the federal government to decide on applications to export liquefied natural gas, indefinitely renew the government’s key conservation funding program, and push toward an electric grid that is better prepared for cybersecurity and renewable energy, among other provisions.

    Like the House bill, the Senate legislation avoids many of the thornier energy issues like crude oil export and the XL pipeline.

    The committee is likely to begin debating the legislation next week, which includes provisions that would eliminate outdated or redundant mandates, encourage energy efficiency in federal and commercial buildings, modernize the electric grid and shore up its ability to adjust to an increase in renewable energy, among other policies.

    While the bill includes top GOP priorities like natural gas exports, it also includes projects important to Democrats like the indefinite renewable of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and electric grid improvements.