Full House clears energy bill that holds provisions for gas, power industries

The U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 249-174, on Dec. 3 passed H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, which includes two energy infrastructure bills from the Committee on Natural Resources, H.R. 2295, the National Energy Security Corridors Act, and H.R. 2358, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act.

Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said in a Dec. 3 statement: “As the Obama Administration undercuts American energy security in Paris, the House today advanced a reform package to strengthen our energy position and ensure our domestic infrastructure keeps stride with our renewed energy capacity,” stated Bishop. “If we want to foster the energy resurgence and cement America’s energy leverage at home and abroad, we need to change the prescriptive standards of the past. This package makes those changes. It keeps us on a path forward, creates new export opportunities to grow the domestic economy and enables our abundant domestic supply to reach communities most in need.”

H.R. 2295 streamlines the approval process for natural gas pipelines across federal lands to better serve American families and businesses. H.R. 2295 has been endorsed by: America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, American Gas Association, Gas Processers Association, American Petroleum Institute, Plastics Pipe Institute, and jointly by America’s Natural Gas Alliance and American Petroleum Institute.

H.R. 2358 improves the safety and reliability of the electric grid on federal lands reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires and costly electricity blackouts. H.R. 2358 has been endorsed by: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, American Public Power Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Western Governors’ Association, and Edison Electric Institute

Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said in a Dec. 3 statement about passage of this bill: “At a time when the leaders of the world are focused on tackling the climate crisis in Paris, House Republicans are busy pushing through legislation to double down on dirty fossil fuel proposals that are destined to go nowhere. The grab-bag of polluter priorities in this bill does nothing for the American people, who are excited about the our booming clean energy economy driven by solar and wind. Congress needs to get serious about recognizing that the world is acting on climate and clean energy. A great start to those efforts here at home would be passing an extension of critical clean energy tax incentives before leaving Washington for the holidays, so clean energy workers are not left out in the cold.”

The bill was sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. “How can it be in the 21st century with incredible energy abundance that we can’t get energy to consumers in some parts of the country? This bill is the fix we need to ensure folks in Michigan and every corner of the country have access to affordable and reliable energy,” said Upton in a Dec. 3 statement.

The United States is now the world’s largest producer of petroleum and natural gas but America’s energy infrastructure has failed to keep pace with this energy renaissance, Upton said. H.R. 8 is focused in four areas – modernizing energy infrastructure, protecting the electricity system, strengthening energy security, and improving energy efficiency and government accountability. Additionally, H.R. 8 contains provisions to lift the ban on crude oil exports, expedite the approval process for liquefied natural gas exports, and speed up the permitting process for cross-border energy infrastructure projects.

Upton added: “A decade ago no one could have imagined where we would be in 2015 and how much the energy script would be flipped in our favor. This bill promotes access to affordable and reliable energy, diversity, efficiency and modernization of our energy infrastructure, and most importantly it modernizes our electricity grid. Today the House put the scarcity mindset in the rear view mirror and said yes to energy and yes to jobs.”

The four areas covered by the bill are, accoding to a Republican-authored fact sheet:

  • Modernizing Energy Infrastructure – The U.S. is now the world’s leading energy producer, but the pipelines and electric grid haven’t kept pace with the rapid transition. H.R. 8 focuses on the transmission, distribution, and storage of energy to ensure we have the necessary infrastructure to meet modern energy challenges. 
  • Protecting the Electricity System – Changing market dynamics, a barrage of regulations, and external threats have created new energy security and reliability challenges. Disruptions in the delivery of electricity have far-reaching economic and public health impacts. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that power outages cost Americans at least $150 billion annually. The legislation seeks to meet energy reliability and security challenges through enhanced emergency preparedness and utilization of advanced technologies to address threats to the electricity system, including physical and cyber-attacks, electromagnetic pulse, geomagnetic disturbances, severe weather, and seismic events.
  • Strengthening Energy Security and Diplomacy – As the world’s leading producer of petroleum and natural gas, U.S. energy abundance should be used to strengthen energy security while also supporting allies in their quest for affordable and reliable energy. H.R. 8 takes important steps by strengthening partnerships with allies and reforming the approval process for energy exports.    
  • Improving Energy Efficiency and Government Accountability – New technologies have the potential to save money and reduce energy use, yet government roadblocks stand in the way. H.R. 8 promotes simple and affordable methods to address energy demand and lower electric bills. It also seeks to reduce government waste and prioritize budget dollars in existing programs, as well as provide  important regulatory relief for U.S. manufacturers from burdensome federal efficiency mandates.

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn said in a Dec. 3 statement about passage of the bill: “EEI applauds Chairmen Upton and Whitfield for their leadership and work on passing this important piece of energy legislation that will bolster the electric power industry’s efforts to provide reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean electricity to our customers. This legislation will enhance the Department of Energy’s authority to respond to threats to the power grid, protect sensitive information about critical electric infrastructure, resolve environmental and grid reliability conflicts, make modest improvements to the federal permitting and licensing process for natural gas pipelines and hydroelectric facilities, and preserve all fuel options for powering federal facilities. We look forward to working with both the House and the Senate to develop a final bill to be sent to the President’s desk.”

The Whitfield that Kuhn mentioned is Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., who chairs a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.