The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would expand liquefied natural gas exports and streamline permitting for energy infrastructure projects.
The House cleared the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and other GOP leaders, on Dec. 3 by a 249-174 vote.
It is the first comprehensive energy bill to receive House approval since 2007. But the measure faces an uncertain future. It still must make its way through the Senate, and President Obama has threatened a veto.
Although the bill had bipartisan support when Upton's committee cleared it last summer, Republicans recently added provisions that caused some Democrats to pull back their support. They include provisions that would gut or undermine existing laws designed to promoting energy efficiency in buildings, said the committee’s ranking Democrat, Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.).
Pallone said on the House floor on Dec. 2 that the bill “has one central theme binding its titles: an unerring devotion to the energy of the past. Provision after provision favors an energy policy dominated by fossil fuels and unnecessary energy use. It is the Republican Party’s 19th century vision for the future of U.S. energy policy in the 21st century.”
Some energy-efficiency advocates, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Alliance to Save Energy, say oppose the bill because of its over-reliance on fossil fuels.
In particular, AIA objects to a provision that would repeal targets set by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act to trim fossil fuel use in federal buildings.
In a statement, AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter said, “By voting to kill requirements to reduce fossil fuel consumption in federal buildings, the House has abrogated its role in making the U. S. government a global leader in sustainability by the year 2030. This move will continue to hold federal taxpayers hostage to the whims of global energy markets.”
But the bill’s supporters say that it would modernize energy policies and make it easier for natural gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure projects to get built. In a statement, Upton said, “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.”
“America is now the world’s top oil and natural gas producer, and updating our policies for a new era is critical to harnessing the jobs and economic potential unleashed by America's energy renaissance,” said Louis Finkel, the American Petroleum Institute’s executive vice president for government affairs.