On January 27, Senators Lisa Murkoski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) led the Senate floor discussion of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012. This is a major accomplishment—it has been eight years since comprehensive energy legislation passed Congress and was signed into law
The bill was favorably reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee by a bipartisan vote last September. An additional hopeful sign for the bill is that the White House, although stating concerns about some elements of the bill, has no plans to veto the current bill.
As with any major legislation, there will be lots of proposed amendments (89 by January 28). The bill will probably be discussed and amended over several days in late January and early February. After the Senate passes the bill, it will still have to pass the House, a lengthy process.
Some expected amendments would boost work on nuclear reactor and climate change research under ARPA-E (Energy Department Advanced Research Projects Agency); rescind the coal leasing moratorium, and Clean Power Plan and Waters of the US regulations; and institute changes to accelerate LNG export facilities and infrastructure projects crossing U.S. international borders.
What is in the Bill?
Senators Murkowski and Cantwell describe the bill as building on recent technological breakthroughs. “Its provisions will save energy, expand domestic production, facilitate investment in critical infrastructure, protect the electrical grid, boost energy trade, improve the performance of federal agencies, and reauthorize certain programs that have proven effective.”
The major topics of the bill are:
- Efficiency for buildings, appliances, manufacturing and vehicles.
- Infrastructure improvements, including cybersecurity, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, trade including LNG exports, electricity and energy storage and computing.
- Energy Supply section focuses on advanced research and includes sections on: hydroelectric, geothermal, and marine hydrokinetic energy, biomass, methane hydrates, helium, critical minerals (including the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program), workforce (including forming the 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board).
- Accountability section includes modifications to loan programs for innovative energy technology, energy-water sustainability, America COMPETES programs, grid reliability, and housekeeping sections to revise outdated elements of prior comprehensive energy bills.
- Land and Water Conservation Fund would be permanently reauthorized.
The bill contents and purpose are summarized in the above chart prepared by ENR.