The broad energy bill that stalled at the end of the last Congress may have new life, according to comments by the two leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during an recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Washington’s Maria Cantwell, said on May 3 they again aim to update the nation’s energy policies for the first time in nearly a decade.
Such a bill would face many of the challenges that tripped it up last year, especially in a House where the leading item on the energy agenda continues to be easing regulations on fossil fuels.
Murkowski noted that she does not have a timeline for the bill’s revival.
“I have promised, and I know Sen. Cantwell has made the same commitments, that we are not done with our energy bill that we advanced last year,” she said when asked about her committee’s agenda this Congress. “That was a bipartisan effort that deserves to be enacted into law, and we will see that through.”
The bill, including measures to streamline permits for liquefied natural gas export facilities, to advance energy efficiency in building codes and energy grids and to revamp public lands policies like wildfire funding, had made it as far as conference negotiations between the House and Senate.
But the negotiations ran up against the end of the congressional calendar, and the House adjourned without taking up what the conference had produced — a limited bill focusing mainly on public lands initiatives.
The desire to put those policies in place remains strong in the Senate.
Originally, the bill moved out of the chamber on an 85-12 vote, a notable majority for a bill covering such a broad range of issues. Murkowski’s committee has focused much of its 2017 agenda on how to go further to streamline regulations than what was proposed in last year’s bill.
“We are never going to give up getting our House colleagues to get up to speed on what are the next steps in energy that we can agree on,” Cantwell said.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also signaled that it might restart some of its efforts from last Congress, though its leaders appear to be more focused on lifting limits on fossil fuels than on modernizing dated rules.