WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 19 -- Senate Republican leaders Monday are expected to introduce a streamlined energy security bill that includes a provision to lease a portion of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"The Homeland Energy Security Act of 2001" includes several portions of an earlier bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) last spring when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. His Democratic counterpart, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), now the committee chairman, also proposed energy legislation although it did not include ANWR leasing.
The House passed a comprehensive energy bill last August that includes an ANWR leasing provision. That bill also seeks to streamline pipeline permitting, royalty collections, and would grant $8 billion in new tax incentives for marginal producers.
Both Senate bills seek to encourage domestic production and encourage renewable energy. Democrats however have sought to include electric restructuring in energy legislation. Republicans wanted to pursue that issue separately.
Keeping in line with the House, the latest Senate Republican draft does not include electric restructuring language.
The bill proposes that the US make better use of the 544-million-bbl Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The draft urges the secretaries of Energy and Interior to consider filling the SPR with oil from federal leases. It also calls on the president to establish an interagency SPR panel to study oil markets, fluctuations in oil supply and demand, and the appropriate SPR uses and capacity. The panel may recommend changes to strengthen the ability of the SPR to respond to energy needs.
Most Democrats, including Bingaman, also support filling the SPR to its 700-million-bbl capacity.
The Republican plan would also waive certain antitrust rules so industry could share information about the security of critical infrastructures, including refineries, pipelines, and power plants. A National Petroleum Council study in June recommended the government amend the laws.
The Republican plan also would authorize more government fossil energy research and give more money to state energy programs. Those provisions are likely to be supported by most Democrats.
Also, Democrats are expected to seek more funding for renewable fuel technology, a proposal Bingaman has advocated. Congressional budget makers would determine how much money the energy research programs would receive.
The Republican draft does not include any special tax treatment or incentives for a proposed pipeline to move Alaskan North Slope gas to Lower 48 markets.
It is uncertain how many of the proposals will become legislation. Congress is expected to remain in session through mid-November to pass budget bills and an economic stimulus package.
Lobbyists say it is unlikely but not impossible that energy legislation including ANWR could pass this year as a stand-alone bill. Much will depend on what happens in the Middle East: if key supply sources are disrupted, the call for ANWR may be difficult for Democratic leaders to resist.
Barring any oil supply shocks, a more likely situation is that noncontroversial energy legislation may be attached to other bills moving through Congress. Some minor tax relief for marginal wells is under discussion.