Senate approves broad bipartisan energy bill in an 85-12 vote

May 2, 2016
The US Senate passed broad bipartisan energy legislation that would facilitate approvals of liquefied natural gas export projects while promoting more alternative and renewable energy resource development.

The US Senate passed broad bipartisan energy legislation that would facilitate approvals of liquefied natural gas export projects while promoting more alternative and renewable energy resource development. S. 2012, which Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) introduced in September, now heads to conference with the US House, which passed its own energy bill, H.R. 8, in December.

"From minerals to hydropower to innovation, this bill features a wide range of provisions that will strengthen our economy, our security, and our standing in the world," Murkowski said after the 85-12 vote on Apr. 20.

Ranking Minority Member Maria E. Cantwell (D-Wash.), who worked with Murkowski to develop the legislation and joined her at the press conference, said S. 2012 was the first major energy bill to pass the Senate since 2007 and called it an urgently needed modernization of the US energy system. "It will push us toward cleaner, more efficient, more cost-effective, and renewable energy sources," she maintained.

Murkowski and Cantwell noted the open debate process surrounding the bill, with the Senate accepting more than 60 amendments offered by colleagues on both sides of the aisle during floor debate. They also highlighted the open committee process which led to the bipartisan bill that featured dozens of listening sessions, four oversight hearings, six legislative hearings on more than 100 bills, weeks of staff-level negotiations, and the committee's strongly bipartisan approval of the energy bill at a multi-day markup in July 2015.

The bill's passage drew applause from officials in oil and gas industry and other associations, several of whom focused on its LNG export provisions. "Allowing American gas to compete in the world marketplace will benefit consumers, enhance our national security interests, and bolster our global allies' independence from nations that would use their energy resources as a diplomatic and economic weapon," American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said.

"The crucial point about this legislation, and indeed the bill that passed the House last year, is that it will provide the industry with confidence in the regulatory process," observed Center for Liquefied Natural Gas Pres. Charlie Riedl. "Project developers should know that they have a rock-solid timeframe to work with, and that certainty is crucial for these large, complex, capital-intensive investments in the US economy. This legislation will help catalyze the fast-maturing domestic LNG industry."

"The Senate sent a strong, overdue signal that exporting American gas is very much in the public interest and should be a top priority for our regulators who have to date had little accountability to get these projects approved," said Margo Thorning, Senior Economic Policy Advisor at the American Council for Capital Formation. "Consumers can agree that when it comes to jobs and economic revenue, more is better. And multiple studies, including those done by the US Department of Energy, have shown that increased LNG exports can achieve this."

Others discussed different aspects of the Senate bill. ""Both the House and Senate provisions on pipeline permitting matters are modest in nature, providing incremental transparency and accountability in the permitting and approval of natural gas pipelines," the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America said in an Apr. 20 statement. "They are also largely similar. As such, reconciling the two bills on this issue should be a fairly straightforward process."

"The bipartisan energy legislation passed by the Senate contains provisions that promote strategic use of our nation's natural resources," observed American Gas Association Pres. David K. McCurdy.

He said that S. 2012 would replaces language in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act which banned fossil fuel use in in new and renovated federal buildings by 2030 with energy efficiency measures developed by Energy and Natural Resources Committee members John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with a coalition of industry groups and environmental advocates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy efficiency, and reduce energy costs in those buildings.