Comprehensive Energy Bill
Conferees met on last week on Thursday for the opening session to consider energy legislation, S. 2012, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016. If passed, the bill would be the first piece of comprehensive energy legislation to emerge from Congress in almost a decade. The mood of the members was remarkably positive, with many stating that they do indeed want to work together to compose a bill that President Obama could sign. Of the 47 House and Senate conferees, 41 provided oral comments on the legislation. Several of the hot-button issues that will prove sticking points for the bill will likely include: 1) permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); 2) drought/water provisions impacting the west; 3) the Sportsman’s Act provision which would open all public lands to hunting and shooting; 4) solutions to the U.S. Forest Service’s practice fire borrowing; and 5) research funding for Department of Energy’s applied research capabilities. Other priorities raised by members included: 1) support for the SAVE Act provision to enable more energy efficient homes; 2) streamlining federal permitting provisions for LNG and natural gas export facilities; 3) investing in resilience of the electricity grid; 4) reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA); and 5) addressing hydropower licensing challenges. The next conference meeting is yet to be scheduled and no votes are expected on the legislation until after the election.
This Week’s Hearings:
- On Tuesday, September 13, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will hold a meeting to consider the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 (H.R. 2647). The bill is intended to address the issue of fire borrowing by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), a practice which uses funding almost all of the funding for the USFS for regular service operations to fight increasingly large wildfires.
- On Wednesday, September 14, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, will hold a hearing to examine the future of nuclear power.
- On Thursday, September 15, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, will hold a hearing titled “The Department of Energy’s Role in Advancing the National, Economic, and Energy Security of the United States.”
- On Thursday, September 15, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a hearing to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane regulations.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Last week, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a report noting the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) would have difficulty achieving its purpose of releasing oil to the market in shortage situations. The SPR holds 695 million barrels of oil in 60 underground tanks along the Gulf of Mexico coast. DOE is requesting $375.4 million in order to modernize the system. The DOE report also suggests a future budget of $800 million for general infrastructure overhaul and $1.2 billion for adding additional marine terminals starting in 2022. The report adds that the SPR could still serve its purpose if it held as few as 530 million barrels.