Bipartisan Energy Bill Being Negotiated in Congress

Published April 1, 2016

A bipartisan energy bill currently being negotiated in the U.S. Senate contains provisions to speed up the review of natural gas export terminals; encourage technology upgrades to protect the grid against hackers; authorize a $150 million annually for a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund, to address existing park maintenance backlogs; and increase efficiency standards for federal buildings.

The bill is backed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA). It leaves in place subsidies and mandates for renewable energy industries.

Nick Loris, the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity says the answer to the park maintenance backlog is not more money but less public land.

“The National Parks’ maintenance backlog is not a lack-of-money problem,” Loris said. “It’s a too-much-federal-ownership problem.” 

“Federal land mismanagement is producing economic and environmental problems; problems that Congress can solve by giving more land control to the states and private citizens,” Loris said.

Amendments Voted Down

In an effort to maintain bipartisan support for the bill, the Senate voted down a series of amendments offered by both Democrats and Republicans.

The Senate rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to reverse presidential national monument designations, unless Congress or the hosting state enacts legislation making them permanent. The chamber also rejected an amendment by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) to expedite the permitting process for natural gas lines on federal and tribal land.

The Senate committee rejected amendments proposed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), requiring fossil fuel companies to disclose political donations to non-profit, grassroots, and political organizations that wouldn’t otherwise require disclosure. An amendment proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) to end certain tax incentives benefiting fossil fuel companies was also rejected.

“Whitehouse is actively working to vilify energy companies and reduce the number of organizations that admit the benefits of affordable, reliable energy from natural gas, oil, and coal,” said Dan Simmons, vice president of policy at the Institute for Energy Research.

“Sen. Schatz’ amendment is designed to discriminate against natural gas and oil companies, by denying those companies access to the same type of tax breaks enjoyed by other companies,” Simmons said. “The tax code should be simplified, but Sen. Schatz’ amendment worked to discriminate against natural gas and oil companies.

“The Senate energy bill is a missed opportunity,” Simmons said. “It would have been a much better bill if the sponsors let American families and businesses choose what works best instead of limiting energy choices.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.