House of Representatives passes energy bills, including one involving cross-border infrastructure

The House of Representatives on July 19 passed two energy bills, including H.R. 2883, Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, which was authored by committee members Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), according to a statement posted on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website.

According to the statement, the bill, which passed the House by a vote of 254-175, would:

  • Replace the Presidential Permitting approval needed before building an oil and gas pipeline or electric transmission line that crosses a border with Canada or Mexico with a more transparent, efficient, and effective review process
  • Reestablish Congress’ authority and promotes the value of trade between the United States and its North American allies, which exceeded $140bn in 2015

“The United States is an energy powerhouse around the world,” Mullin said in the statement. “We want to keep it that way. We want our country to compete freely in the global markets and continue to positively benefit our economy. The construction of these border-crossing facilities should be done effectively – without getting caught up in our nation’s politics. This bipartisan piece of legislation allows a transparent and efficient process to be followed the same way every time for every project.”

According to the bill, “Except as provided in paragraph (3) and subsection (e), no person may construct, connect, operate, or maintain a border-crossing facility for the import or export of oil or natural gas, or the transmission of electricity, across an international border of the United States without obtaining a certificate of crossing for the border-crossing facility under this subsection.”

According to the bill, not later than 120 days after final action is taken, by the relevant official or agency identified in the bill, under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 with respect to a border-crossing facility for which a person requests a certificate of crossing under the bill, the relevant official or agency, in consultation with appropriate federal agencies, is to issue a certificate of crossing for the border-crossing facility unless the relevant official or agency finds that the construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of the border-crossing facility is not in the public interest of the United States.

The relevant official or agency is FERC with respect to border-crossing facilities consisting of oil or natural gas pipelines, and the Secretary of Energy with respect to border-crossing facilities consisting of electric transmission facilities, according to the bill.

The bill also noted that in the case of a request for a certificate of crossing for a border-crossing facility consisting of an electric transmission facility, the Secretary of Energy is to require, as a condition of issuing the certificate of crossing under the bill, that the border-crossing facility be built, connected, operated, or maintained consistent with all applicable policies and standards of the electric reliability organization and the applicable regional entity, as well as any regional transmission organization or independent system operator with operational or functional control over the border-crossing facility.

Among other things, the bill noted that subsection “(3) Exclusions,” is to not apply to any construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of a border-crossing facility for the import or export of oil or natural gas, or the transmission of electricity if, for instance, the border-crossing facility is operating for such import, export, or transmission as of the date of enactment of the Act.

According to the statement, the other bill that the House passed on July 19 is H.R. 2910, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, authored by committee member Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX). The statement noted that the bill, which passed the House by a vote of 248-179, would, for instance, strengthen FERC’s lead agency role and bring greater certainty, accountability, and transparency to the siting process for interstate natural gas pipelines.

The Sierra Club on July 19 issued a statement in opposition of those bills, noting, in part, that H.R. 2883 “would eliminate the need for projects to be deemed in America’s national interest and effectively exempt cross-border projects from meaningful environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

In a separate statement, the committee said that the House passed four Energy and Commerce Committee bills on July 18, including H.R. 3050, Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2017, which was authored by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, and Bobby Rush (D-IL), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy.

According to that statement, the bill, which passed the House by voice vote, would enhance the energy emergency planning requirements of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to strengthen the capability of states to secure the country’s energy infrastructure against physical and cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, as well as mitigate risk of energy supply disruptions.

As TransmissionHub reported, U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, have introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA), according to June 29 committee statements posted under Democratic and Republican news.

According to Congress’ website, the bill was “[r]ead the second time” on June 29 and has been “[p]laced on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders.”

According to the June 29 statement, as introduced, the bill calls for, among other things:

  • Infrastructure: The bill would help modernize the country’s electric grid, enhance cybersecurity safeguards, streamline pipeline permitting, facilitate LNG exports, and ensure a qualified and well-trained workforce
  • Efficiency: The bill would include agreements on everything from energy savings performance contracts to the reauthorization of the weatherization assistance and state energy programs
  • Supply: The bill would focus on the development of renewable resources, traditional energy, and non-fuel minerals alike, in order to provide for a long-term, American-made energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure

Among other things, the bill notes that to enhance the reliability of the electric grid and reduce the threat of wildfire damage to, and wildfire caused by vegetation-related conditions within, electric transmission and distribution rights of way (ROWs) and adjacent federal land, the secretary concerned – which means the secretary, with respect to public lands, and the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System land – is to issue and periodically update guidance to ensure that provisions are appropriately developed and implemented for utility vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance of ROWs, regardless of the means by which the ROWs are established.

Also, the bill notes that a transmission organization is to submit a report that, for instance, identifies distributed energy resources and interconnected microgrid systems, and evaluates, with due regard for operational and economic benefits and costs, the potential for distributed energy resources and interconnected microgrid systems to be deployed to the transmission organization over the short- and long-term periods in the planning cycle of the transmission organization.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3059 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.