House Passes Energy Bill

December 9, 2015

pic-energyOn Dec. 3, the House approved the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015 (H.R. 8). The legislation was introduced by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) on Sept. 9 and passed the House by a vote of 249-174 with the support of nine Democrats. Only three Republicans voted against the bill, Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). There were 19 Democratic amendments included in the legislation.

H.R. 8 focuses on modernizing energy infrastructure, improving energy efficiency and strengthening energy security. Included in the legislation are provisions which would lift the crude oil export ban and elements which would streamline the lengthy approval process for liquefied natural gas exports and expedite permitting for natural gas and oil pipeline projects.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) indicated that she is not expecting H.R. 8 to be considered by the Senate, but rather is expecting a compromise energy bill to be approved next year. Chairwoman Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) have been working on a comprehensive energy bill together, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012) which is expected to see floor time after the New Year. It was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by an 18-4 vote in July. The Senate measure is a narrower bill than H.R. 8 and avoids politically challenging issues like development of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and crude oil exports. If approved in the Senate, S. 2012 would ultimately be conferenced with H.R. 8.

If a conferenced version of S. 2012 and H.R. 8 is ultimately signed by President Barack Obama, it would be the first major update to U.S. energy policy since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. However, President Obama has indicated that he will veto H.R 8 if it comes to his desk. The President’s objections to the legislation center around the expedited approval process for liquefied natural gas export projects as well as lifting the crude oil export ban. Senate Republicans and Democrats are confident that a compromise energy bill will make it to the president’s desk next year. Therefore it is likely that significant changes would need to be made in conference for that legislation to be signed.

Small businesses are sensitive to volatile energy prices and disruptions in service. NSBA supports reforms that will make the energy infrastructure across the country more reliable and energy prices more stable.