Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of energy bills, including several aimed at advancing the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. Meanwhile, efforts to revive more comprehensive energy legislation – considered, but not passed, during the last Congress – continue, particularly in the Senate.
On July 19, the House passed H.R. 2910, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, by a vote of 248-179 (with 13 Democrats voting in favor). The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), would:
- Reinforce the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for siting interstate natural gas pipelines by directing FERC to identify and invite all agencies considering an aspect of an application to establish a schedule for concurrent reviews, and to impose deadlines for final decisions.
Also on July 19, the House passed H.R. 2883, the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, by a vote of 254-175 (with 17 Democrats voting in favor). The bill, sponsored by Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Gene Green (D-TX), is designed to modify the Presidential review process that led to the debate surrounding approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Specifically, H.R. 2883 would:
- Replace the current Presidential Permit process with a new, uniform process to authorize the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of international border-crossing facilities for the import and export of oil and natural gas and the transmission of electricity. The bill authorizes FERC to issue a certificate of crossing for oil or natural gas pipelines and the Secretary of Energy to do so for electric transmission facilities.
Following passage of the two bills, Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) – Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee – said, “Our focus has been and will continue to be building America’s energy infrastructure, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy. H.R. 2910 and 2883 are important pieces of legislation that will streamline the permitting process for building energy infrastructure which in turn strengthens our economy, creates jobs, and increases our energy security.”
While it is unlikely that either bill will be taken up as a standalone measure in the Senate, Energy and Commerce leaders could push for their inclusion in future comprehensive energy and / or infrastructure legislation.
Additionally, on July 18, the House passed H.R. 806, the Ozone Standard Implementation Act, by a vote of 229-199 (four Democrats supported the bill while 11 Republicans voted no). The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), would provide additional time for states and localities to implement new ozone standards under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program. Specifically, H.R. 806 would:
- Phase in implementation of the 2015 ozone standards, delaying the date for final designations until 2025;
- More generally, revise the time for mandatory review of NAAQS from 5 to 10 years, while providing the EPA Administrator discretion to issue revised standards earlier;
- Authorize EPA to consider technological feasibility as a secondary consideration when establishing or revising NAAQS;
- Direct EPA to issue implementation regulations and guidance concurrently when revising NAAQS and to ensure that for certain nonattainment areas, states are not required to include economically infeasible measures in their implementation plans; and
- Revise the definition of exceptional events under Section 319 of the Clean Air Act to include droughts and extraordinary stagnation.
A companion bill to H.R. 806 – S. 263, sponsored by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – was the subject of a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in May. Its prospects for passage are uncertain in the closely-divided Senate.
Comprehensive Energy Legislation
Meanwhile, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Cantwell (D-WA) are focused on a comprehensive energy bill similar to legislation that passed the Senate in the last Congress. More information on S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, is available here. The bill, which has been cleared to go straight to the Senate floor, remains a priority for Chairwoman Murkowski; that said, there are many other bills and nominations competing for floor time in the coming weeks.
Finally, following House passage of last week’s energy bills, Chairman Upton indicated that he, too, may be interested in reviving comprehensive energy legislation. Other priorities for the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee include a nuclear waste storage bill, legislation reauthorizing the Department of Energy, and potential legislation stemming from an ongoing series of hearings on the electricity sector.