Legislative Activity

Senate Keystone Debate Continues

Last week, the Senate continued to consider amendments to S. 1, the “Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.” Senators adjourned late Thursday night after Leader McConnell (R-KY) moved to invoke cloture on the substitute amendment for S.1. He did so after calling up a number of Democratic-sponsored amendments for votes that the Senate quickly dispensed with, and after a week-long debate on a range of amendments that touched upon energy efficiency, energy exports, and climate change, among other issues. While most amendments ultimately failed or did not receive a vote, several amendments passed, including one amendment proposed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) “to express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.” That amendment and several others sought to force Republicans to acknowledge the reality of climate change and draw a political distinction between the two parties on the issue. However, the Whitehouse amendment lost considerable political force after Senate Republicans changed their strategy, acknowledged that climate change has long — even “biblical” roots, and joined their Democratic colleagues in a 98-1 vote. Moreover, Republicans altered a separate climate change amendment proposed by Senator Schatz (D-HI) that originally called for a sense of Congress that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Republicans ultimately removed the word “significantly” from that amendment, which ultimately failed on a 50-49 vote. The Senate should wrap-up debate on S. 1 early this week and ultimately vote to end debate, pass the bill, and send it back to the House.

House to Consider LNG Export Reform Proposal

This week, the House will consider H.R. 351 (the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act”), introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). That legislation would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to make a final decision on a pending LNG export application to countries that are not a party to a free-trade-agreement with the U.S. within 30 days after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completes its environmental review. Additionally, the legislation would require successful applicants to disclose destinations to which the exported LNG is likely to be delivered to DOE. H.R. 351 is very similar to Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) version of the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act,” which would force DOE to make an export decision within 45 days after FERC’s completes its environmental review. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on that legislation this week, on Thursday, January 29.

House Passes Pipeline Permitting Reform Bill

Last week, the House passed H.R. 161, the “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act,” by a vote of 253-169 (with 14 Democratic members voting to support the bill). H.R. 161 would require FERC to complete its environmental review for an application to site and construct a natural gas pipeline project within 12 months after filing. The bill would also require other agencies with reviewing authority to complete their process within 90 days after FERC completes its environmental review.