Members of Congress returned to Washington this week with a clear focus on energy policy. How are efforts to lift the ban on crude oil exports shaping up in the House and Senate? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Hannah Northey discusses this week's House vote and the political maneuvering happening on both sides of the Hill on exports.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Members of Congress back in Washington this week after the August recess with a clear focus on energy policy. Will this new momentum lead to a lifting of the ban on crude oil experts? E&E Daily's Hannah Northey is here to talk about the political maneuvering surrounding exports.
Hannah Northey in the House this week -- we saw House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power pass Congressman Barton's bill on exports. What does the bill do, and what are the chances that this actually moves through the full House?
Hannah Northey: Yeah, so Barton's bill would essentially lift this 1970s-era ban that the United States has on exporting domestic crude oil. It would also call on the Energy Department to look at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- how it's used, how it's composed -- and then report back to Congress.
There was a lot of confidence yesterday voiced by Barton and other Republicans that this was going to move quickly through the House. Barton even predicted that it would reach the president's desk by Christmas, but -- and sources so far, energy analysts have said that's likely, but they're seeing bigger challenges in the Senate because you have a number of things going on there.
You have natural partisan divides, you have a lot of negotiating going on between Republicans and Democrats that also involves renewable energy incentives. And you also have a time crunch -- you have a lot of negotiating around the Iran deal, you have the pope coming later this month, and you have a looming budget appropriations process that's at a standstill right now.
So it's unclear, but yeah [laughter] -- it's moving through the House.
Monica Trauzzi: We know it's been a pretty divisive issue up until this point in both chambers, and yesterday in that vote, Democrats were not on board. So what is it that the Democrats are looking for?
Hannah Northey: So, Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce, the subcommittee yesterday, they were pretty critical of Republicans, saying that they had rushed the process, that they wanted more time to come up with a compromise, a deal. But they also -- you know, they gave specific language that could show up as amendments. There were no amendments yesterday, so we're seeing, for example, Bobby Rush from Illinois, he wanted more language that could help out underrepresented communities in the energy sector. Members like the congressman from Pennsylvania or Gene Green from Texas, they wanted more protections for the oil refinery sector. And then, on the other hand, you had Frank Pallone from New Jersey, who was just telling his colleagues to vote it down completely, saying that the bill didn't consider climate or refineries or consumers -- so that's what they're after.
Monica Trauzzi: You talked a bit about what's happening in the Senate, and in the Senate, there is an effort to move their own bill on exports. How do the two bills compare, House versus Senate?
Hannah Northey: So, the Senate bill is the OPENS Act, and that's Lisa Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Her bill is much more comprehensive, but it includes the same provision that would lift this export ban, but it would also deal with offshore revenues for coastal states, so they can get more money from offshore drilling. So that's how it is.
Monica Trauzzi: There's a lot of lobbying happening on this now. How is the chess game sort of being played?
Hannah Northey: We're seeing a really well-oiled machine -- well, yeah [laughter]. Really, a lot of TV ads, online ads from the oil industry, the American Petroleum Institute, PACE has been out there, reaching out to members of Congress about getting the ban lifted.
On the other side, you're seeing new faces -- the Democratic strategist Karl Frisch with Allied Progress. He is, they have launched a campaign in five states, not lobbying, but trying to, you know, reach out to the public, saying, "Hey, reach out to your senator and keep this ban intact."
So I think you're seeing a lot more movement from independent oil producers reaching out to Hill members.
Monica Trauzzi: So how do the efforts on exports tie into the broader push to move a comprehensive energy bill?
Hannah Northey: That's a good question. They're actually moving on separate tracks, it appears so, for now, anyways. Both in the House and the Senate, so far we've talked about stand-alone bills on the export issue, but the comprehensive energy packages, they don't include that language. But that doesn't mean that they couldn't show up as amendments later -- but for right now, both the House and the Senate leaders have tried to keep out controversial language to move those packages forward.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it there. A lot to watch.
Hannah Northey: Yeah.
Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for coming on the show.
Hannah Northey: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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