Legislative Activity

Senate Completes Keystone Consideration

Last week, the Senate completed consideration of S. 1, the “Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act,” and passed the legislation by a vote of 62-36. Congressional leaders must now determine how to resolve differences between the two chambers’ Keystone bills before the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act is ready for presentment to the President. The Senate version now includes a number of amendments that some House Republicans may not support. The House may nevertheless choose to accept the Senate version despite those amendments and swiftly move the legislation this week. On the other hand, congressional leaders may choose to convene a traditional conference committee to blend the two bills together. That approach could resolve existing difference between the bills and provide an opportunity to expand the legislation by adding unrelated measures in an effort to secure additional bipartisan support. That support could prove useful in the event that the President follows through on his intent to veto the Keystone bill since Senate Republicans still lack at least five votes required to override a presidential veto.

The congressional decision-making process will also continue as the administrative review process rapidly draws to a close at the State Department, as eight federal agencies must submit their final comments on the Keystone XL application by Monday, February 2. While the State Department does not have a deadline to complete its review and provide a recommendation to the President, the congressional process could spur the Department to complete its review process soon.

House Passes LNG Export Reform Proposal

Last week, the House passed H.R. 351 (the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act”) with a bipartisan vote of 277-133. 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. The White House did not issue a Statement of Administration Policy opposing H.R 351. However, White House officials described the legislation as “unnecessary.”

Action will now shift to the Senate, where the Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week on similar legislation that would force DOE to make an export decision within 45 days after FERC’s completes its environmental review. LNG export proponents received a boost at the hearing when DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Mr. Chris Smith, told committee members that the Department “can comply with the law” if the Senate legislation passes.