Energy Policy

E&E Daily's Northey outlines roadblocks, timeline on energy bills

With comprehensive energy bills introduced in both the House and Senate this week, what timeline is emerging for moving the bills through committee, and how contentious is the amendment process expected to be? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Hannah Northey discusses the outlook for committee markups and floor action.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Energy bills dropping in both the House and Senate this week. Is this a first step towards bipartisan compromise? E&E Daily's Hannah Northey is here with details on the next steps and possible roadblocks that we could see that get in the way to getting these bills to the floor. Hannah, let's start with the Senate. Are Chairwoman Murkowski and ranking member Cantwell both pleased with what made it into the bill that's ready for markup? What's included?

Hannah Northey: Well, to make an obvious point, it's a big bill. It's 357 pages, and I think they are pretty happy. It definitely speaks to the bipartisan effort that went into it. The committee staffers told us there are 30 Republican bills that went into the package and over 20 Democratic measures, so it's definitely even. And some of the big provisions, it puts a clock on LNG exports, has cyber authority for the DOE. It also expresses the senators' intent that oil funds from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should not be used for activities that aren't related. The bill is also pretty interesting for what it doesn't include, which is lifting this decades-old ban on oil exports or drilling in ANWR, which is a big focus for Senator Murkowski. So yeah, I would say that they're pretty happy about it right now.

Monica Trauzzi: And this is where the amendment process comes in. That's where we're expecting things to get sticky. What types of amendments are senators going to be looking to attach?

Hannah Northey: So we're not sure yet. They're being pretty tight-lipped, but I think you could see some of these senators reintroducing language that they had initially proposed for the bill but was then taken out. I was thinking about that. So Sen. Martin Heinrich from New Mexico, for example, he gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission backstop authority to approve transmission lines that states may have taken too long on or rejected, and so maybe he would reintroduce that language or independent Sen. Angus King from Maine, maybe he would reintroduce language that would control which LNG exports are approved, but you know, as far as that more contentious language, Senator Murkowski has said she's going to move a separate bill to deal with lifting the export ban and divvying up oil and gas revenues for coastal states, and she actual wants to move that bill before the recess. So I don't -- we're not absolutely sure that that language is going to make it into an amendment.

Monica Trauzzi: So is that how she's planning to sort of manage this amendment process? I mean, how are she and Fred Upton over on the House side managing the process and then what's the timeline in both chambers?

Hannah Northey: It's moving a little faster in the Senate, actually, and a little slower in the House. But what they've both said is it's going to be regular or they're going to open the floor to amendments. There is a little bit of a difference in that we can tell so far. We're trying to figure this out. In the House, Congressman Pallone, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has said that he struck a deal with Upton to make sure that any amendment that goes into the deal has bipartisan backing or, you know, consensus. When we pushed him on that, he said, well, everything's still on the table. So it still seems pretty open. And Senator Murkowski, she's also said that the really -- you know, she's showing -- she believes that there's a lot of restraint. She really liked the No Child Left Behind Act where all the amendments were allowed in, but the more contentious issues are put to -- they're allowed to take place on the floor. From what she's said, she's going to allow these amendments, and nothing's left out so far. She's not really putting an edict out there that's saying it has to be germane. So it's pretty interesting.

Monica Trauzzi: And over on the House side, also pretty noncontroversial to start. What types of amendments and what's included in that House bill that's different from the Senate bill?

Hannah Northey: It's more stripped down than the Senate bill. It doesn't deal with hydropower or cyber. It also doesn't talk about lifting the export ban on oil exports. And it actually doesn't talk about LNG exports at all, which is pretty interesting because a lot of members wanted that. So it is less contentious than the Senate bill and also, I mean, in the amendment process in the House, what we're thinking you could see is a little battle between members who are asking, you know, Democrats are asking why doesn't this deal with climate change? Why doesn't this push renewables? So they could offer those type of amendments whereas Republicans, a number have said that they want to see this language to lift the crude export ban. So yeah, we think there's going to be a little rub there.

Monica Trauzzi: This is the most momentum we've seen on an energy bill in a long time. Does this signal that we could see a successful move across the finish line?

Hannah Northey: Some would say yes. I think that it's -- you know, it's kind of unclear right now. What Murkowski and Upton, what the leaders of these committees did is that they put off the controversial amendments, the issues, until later down the road. So they have these bipartisan products that they're really proud of, but it also begs the question, you know, will these amendments bog down these bills? Will they get it done with floor time running out on the clock? We're just going to have to wait and see if the members want it as much as the leaders do and what happens with these amendments.

Monica Trauzzi: Lot of uncertainties still. Thank you for coming on the show.

Hannah Northey: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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