As efforts in both chambers of Congress accelerate to move LNG exports and nuclear waste legislation, what are the prospects for a broader energy bill this year? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Hannah Northey discusses the action on energy policy on either side of Capitol Hill and House Republicans' plans to unveil an energy plan as early as next week.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. News that the House is preparing to unveil a comprehensive energy plan as early as next week -- E&E Daily's Hannah Northey is here with the details. Hannah, after the Keystone XL debate this is another step in what's expected to be a very busy year for Congress on energy legislation. What do we know? What could be included?
Hannah Northey: So sources have told us that House Republicans as early as next week could unveil a strategy or a plan going forward for what they want to do, how they want to craft a comprehensive energy built. And so sources are expecting this could, you know, be a road map in a way, and then bills or legislation could come later; we're not sure. What we have heard is that it has bipartisan support, and the areas that this plan could address are infrastructure, gas pipeline permitting, transmission, upgrading the electric grid, also workforce -- individuals entering the energy industry -- and efficiency. And so what's unclear is how that's going to mesh with Senate efforts.
Monica Trauzzi: Right, and so how does this frame what we could see the Senate doing? What are you hearing from Chairwoman Murkowski's office about how things are shaping up on the Senate side?
Hannah Northey: So Sen. Lisa Murkowski yesterday told reporters at a pen and pad that she wants to start holding hearings as early as next month, and she has made clear that she has four different areas of focus as she's picking up the bill. So she's moving piece by piece. She's looking at infrastructure. She's looking at supply issues, so there you could definitely see exports come up. She is looking at efficiency, and then she's also looking at areas of reform. And so here at E&E what we're watching is definitely the LNG export bills, the nuclear waste legislation that could come up, and efficiency.
Monica Trauzzi: Right, and both the House and Senate are moving quickly on LNG exports legislation. What are we seeing from either chamber, and what's the timeline looking like for those bills?
Hannah Northey: Right. So the focus is definitely on putting a clock on regulators and how quickly they approve LNG exports to foreign shores, countries that don't have free-trade agreements with the United States. And this year the House is moving faster than the Senate. The House has already approved a bipartisan bill that Congressman Bill Johnson introduced, a lot of bipartisan support, and that actually gives DOE 60 days to approve LNG exports after the FERC, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, wraps up its environmental review. And so now all eyes are turning to the Senate, and we are wondering -- you know, reporters are questioning Sen. Murkowski about when she's going to start marking up a bill that Sens. Barrasso and Heinrich introduced, and that puts a 45-day clock on the DOE. So, you know -- and again, once we get through that markup period she said that she may want to move that with different energy initiatives, and then it's up to the Senate leaders to bring that measure up.
Monica Trauzzi: And DOE has not offered much pushback to the congressional efforts. Could this be an easy pass for lawmakers then?
Hannah Northey: So the DOE at the last Senate ENR hearing did say that a 45-day clock was workable, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has said that he'll follow any law that's passed. So I think that along with the bipartisan support you're seeing for export, it's definitely giving proponents a lot to work with.
Monica Trauzzi: So you're also tracking nuclear waste legislation, and that's expected to be released soon. How are those efforts shaping up?
Hannah Northey: There's a lot going on in that area. In the House we have a strong focus on Yucca Mountain; that's a big issue. Congressman John Shimkus from Illinois, he is -- he has said that he is crafting a bill, and that -- a lot of the sources expect that to focus on not deficiencies, but steps that haven't been taken yet in the Yucca Mountain review, and that's land and water rights. That's an environmental review that's not complete. Now how that will mesh with the Senate is really unclear right now. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, yesterday said that he's going to introduce two measures. Now one is a pilot project that he's working on with Sen. Feinstein, and the second is a longer-term measure that will kind of jump-start this search for repositories. And those two measures are going to stay silent on Yucca Mountain, but that doesn't mean Yucca Mountain couldn't happen under those measures. So whether or not there are areas of agreement, that's definitely what sources are watching. And also if it's not dealt with in the next two years it's going to be -- you know, people are saying it could be a larger issue in the 2016 primaries in Nevada because it's a swing state. And of course the Senate minority leader is from that state and he opposes Yucca Mountain.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, very interesting as always. Thank you for coming on the show, Hannah.
Hannah Northey: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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