The quest for a wide-ranging energy bill now moves to the Senate after House passage April 21 of a 1,018-page package that includes provisions aimed at speeding construction of gas pipeline and electricity transmission lines. The bill also boosts nuclear power and opening part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
Key Items In House Energy Measure:
|Establishes mandatory electricity reliability standards|
|$8 billion in tax breaks, including accelerated depreciation for electricity transmission and natural gas distribution lines|
|Takes steps to speed approvals for siting new transmission lines|
|Repeals 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act|
|Opens part of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling|
|Sets federal renewable-fuels standard, 5 billion gallons in 2012|
|Establishes new energy-efficiency standards for federal buildings|
|Extends Price-Anderson Act nuclear-contractor indemnification through 2025|
|Provides liability relief for makers of MTBE|
SOURCE: H.R. Bill 6, House Energy and Commerce Committee
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) plans to have his panel vote on its bill in May and hopes for floor action by early summer. President Bush wants the legislation on his desk by August.
Domenici is expected to exclude House provisions on ANWR and liability relief for producers of gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Opposition from some Senate Republicans and Democrats to an MTBE provision helped kill a 2003 energy bill.
Another MTBE battle is looming. Says Frank Maisano, an energy lobbyist: "The important thing is that the Senate get a bill...reasonably quickly so that we can move to the hard part of figuring out what the compromises are going to be. Thats where the real game is played."
Environmentalists seeking stronger conservation provisions are likely to prefer the Senate bill to the Houses. They also may get an assist from the White House. In an April 20 statement, the Office of Management and Budget said the Houses bills tax breaks exceed the $6.7 billion Bush proposed, but omit credits he desires, including ones for renewable power and hybrid vehicles.
Among construction-related provisions, the House cut the write-off period for gas distribution lines to 15 years, from 35 years now, and for "electricity transmission assets" to 15 years, from 20. It expanded the five-year writeoff for pollution-control facilities to powerplants built before 1976. In the nuclear power section, it would extend contractors Price-Anderson Act indemnification through 2025. It now is to expire at the end of 2006.
The House measure sets mandatory reliability standards for electricity and allows federal officials to issue permits to build transmission lines in "national interest" corridors. It allows the Dept. of Energy to issue environmental reviews for transmission projects and repeals the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act.
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