For the first time in years, the Senate is considering a bill to update U.S. energy policy including a provision accelerating approval of permits to build coastal terminals for shipping American natural gas abroad.
Specifically, the bill requires the DOE to approve or reject an application to site, construct, and operate a liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility within 45 days of the completion of an environmental review. The bill also requires significant upgrades to the electrical grid system, with a focus on building new large-scale storage systems for electricity.
This bipartisan legislation is co-sponsored by the Republican chairwoman of the Energy Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington.
In order to achieve a general consensus, Murkowski and Cantwell significantly scaled down the scope of the bill. It mainly focuses on modernizing energy infrastructure and improving energy efficiency. It does not drastically increase fossil fuel production, as most Republicans would like, nor does it address climate change, as most Democrats want.
However, the legislation has gotten caught up in the debate over what support the federal government should provide in Flint, Michigan where widespread lead contamination in the city’s water system was found.
Murkowski said she was working with Democrats on legislation addressing aging water infrastructure around the country and hopes that will get the energy bill moving again. “We hopefully have an agreement that will allow for a vote,” she said in Houston. Murkowski said she hopes the Senate will begin addressing the energy modernization bill as early as next week. The future of the bill still remains uncertain.
“One of two things is about to happen. Either, one, the bill will get hijacked by campaign-year partisanship and go down in flames, or, two, there will actually be substantive debate and we’ll see a meaningful new energy law,” said Kevin Book, a policy expert at ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan research firm. “For now, I’m very cautiously putting my money on number two, which would be a pretty big deal.”
Article written by HEI contributor Aliyah Cole.