Comprehensive energy bills have passed both chambers of Congress—the first time that has happened since 2007—and the legislation is inching closer to final passage and the president’s desk.
Still, in a legislative year shortened by political parties' conventions in July and the November elections, lawmakers face an uphill path to producing a final energy measure.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on May 26 named 24 Republicans to serve on the conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate bills. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also named a list of Democratic conferees. A day earlier, the House voted 241-178 to pass the Senate version of the bill, which included the House version that passed last December as an amendment.
However, the Senate is in a sort of holding pattern in naming its conferees, one Democratic aide told ENR. Because Congress will leave for its Memorial Day recess after concluding business on May 27, “the earliest we will see action on the bill will likely be the first week we are back in June,” the aide said.
At an April press conference, the Senate bill's chief sponsor, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), acknowledged that reconciling the two versions of the bill would be difficult. Although the Senate bill passed with a large bipartisan majority, the House vote fell more along party lines, with only a few Democrats breaking rank to support the measure.
Democrats find the House bill less attractive than the Senate's because, for example, it has fewer incentives and programs for renewable-energy source development and energy efficiency.
Both measures would streamline environmental regulations to speed up approvals for liquefied-natural-gas export terminals and natural-gas pipelines. Both also include energy-efficiency measures for homes and other buildings.
Many industry groups, ranging from the American Public Power Association to the National Electrical Contractors Association, like both bills, particularly the Senate version.
The American Institute of Architects is hoping it can convince conferees to remove language from both bills that would rescind Section 433 of the 2007 American Energy and Security Act, AIA says that rescission is a giveaway to oil and gas interests. The section in the 2007 law establishes target reductions for federal buildings' fossil-fuel use, targets that designers are already meeting, AIA says.