Crude export ban, Keystone XL amendments head to House floor

By Hannah Hess, Hannah Northey | 12/02/2015 07:31 AM EST

A sweeping package from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, likely to clear the chamber this week, has become the latest vehicle for repeal of the crude export ban and speeding the permitting process for projects like Keystone XL.

House lawmakers today will debate a rule adopted yesterday by the House Rules Committee that sets up parameters for consideration of H.R. 8, a broad bill intended to increase efficiency, speed natural gas exports and modernize the aging electric grid. The committee reported the rule by voice vote to allow 38 amendments, of the 103 submitted to the panel, to reach the floor.

Under a structured rule that will guide the remainder of floor debate, the committee incorporated portions of a crude oil exports bill (H.R. 702) that cleared the House in October. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who has led efforts to repeal the crude oil exports ban, predicted yesterday that the amendment would draw more bipartisan support in this round. Two months ago, 26 Democrats crossed the aisle to support the measure (Greenwire, Oct. 9).


The committee also made in order an amendment offered by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) that aims to consolidate the lengthy permitting process that stalled the Keystone XL pipeline for years. It would establish a permitting process within the Energy Department, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the State Department for cross-border infrastructure projects.

Another amendment by GOP Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Ryan Zinke of Montana would promote the completion of environmental reviews for a proposed coal export terminal in Washington state. The Lummi Tribe says the project would violate treaty fishing rights (see related story).

Republican amendments to be considered include a repeal of U.S. EPA’s final rule establishing federal standards for residential wood heaters; a measure requiring the secretary of Energy to collaborate with Mexico’s Secretariat of Energy and Canada’s natural resources ministry when developing guidelines to develop skills for an energy and manufacturing industry workforce; and a proposal designed to level the playing field for biomass.

An amendment from Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) would call on the DOE to review and update the data used for a 9-year-old federal study on re-refined oil. The measure, made in order yesterday, would also require the development of a strategy to increase data collections and sustainability.

However, the committee rejected a measure offered by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) to repeal the renewable fuel standard, which DeSantis described as a "no-brainer." The committee similarly dismissed a repeal of energy conservation standards under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, offered by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).

The panel also did not make in order an amendment by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and other lawmakers from uranium-producing regions calling for Department of Energy plans for the release of government stockpiles. They have long expressed concern about hurting the uranium market.

Of the amendments up for consideration, 22 were proposed by Democrats. But the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), identified a number of shortcomings, including ignoring climate change and failing to recognize the growth of renewable energy.

Tonko called the bill a "far cry from the discussion drafts we actually held hearings on earlier this year" during general debate.

It has been nearly a decade since the House last considered a broad energy package.

Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) kicked off general debate on the measure with a recap of how much has changed.

"Back then, the energy situation looked downright dire — declining domestic oil and natural gas output, increasing reliance on imports, and energy prices that seemed like they had nowhere to go but up. Manufacturers were fleeing oversees in pursuit of cheaper energy," Upton said.

"It is well past time," Upton continued, "that our laws rooted in energy scarcity caught up to our newfound 21st-century reality."

Reporter Manuel Quiñones contributed.