House poised to unveil comprehensive energy plan

By Hannah Northey, Nick Juliano | 02/06/2015 06:52 AM EST

House Republicans as soon as next week are expected to outline their approach to comprehensive energy legislation, which would include language that could secure the U.S. electric grid, bolster infrastructure like transmission and gas pipelines, promote energy efficiency and offer programs to prepare workers for jobs in the energy industry, according to people who have been briefed on the measure.

These sources are expecting a draft proposal that includes four titles: modernizing infrastructure, which would include improving the electric grid and easing pipeline permitting; workforce development, which would focus on training individuals for careers in the energy industry; energy diplomacy, which would address cross-border pipelines and power lines along with multi-agency permitting processes; and energy efficiency and government accountability. Additional details on what each title would entail were being closely held ahead of next week’s possible formal announcement.

So far, the framework has bipartisan support, according to the sources, but it was unclear last night exactly how or when it would be rolled out. It could come as a series of draft bills or a more informal "framework" outlining ideas from Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and others.


The proposal is not expected to include thorny language that would address House Republicans’ furor over what they see as U.S. EPA’s regulatory overreach to avoid sparking an early partisan fight. That could be included in a separate bill introduced later in the year, the sources said.

A GOP aide confirmed that the Energy and Commerce Committee would be announcing more details on its energy agenda next week but declined to provide additional details.

The House draft would represent a step toward the Republican Congress crafting a larger energy package, but questions remain about how those efforts would mesh between the two chambers.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday she is planning an aggressive series of hearings as soon as next month to start constructing a comprehensive energy bill focused on four main areas — infrastructure, supply, efficiency and accountability — which dovetail nicely with the focus of the House approach expected to be rolled out next week.

Murkowski said last month’s lengthy debate over legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline provided an early indication of areas where senators may be able to find some agreement and demonstrated that she and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, the committee’s new top Democrat, can successfully shepherd a bill to passage.

The most immediate items that could see action is the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export bill from Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.); soon-to-be-reintroduced efficiency legislation from Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.); and potential nuclear waste legislation from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Murkowski and Cantwell.

Other rifle-shot pieces of legislation also could find themselves on the Senate committee agenda, and no final decisions have been made about how to bring them to the floor. But Murkowski suggested she saw a better chance of success with a single, broad-based bill after it took more than three weeks to make it through the KXL legislation.

"How much time is [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] going to give me? I don’t know," Murkowski said at a press briefing yesterday, noting the procedural pitfalls that befell the modest Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill last year, when Republicans filibustered the bill to protest not being able to offer the amendments they wanted. "I’m looking at this and saying I’m good with trying a bigger, broader approach and then trying to sell that to my colleagues."