U.S. House Passes Bipartisan Energy Infrastructure Bills

Published September 29, 2017

In keeping with President Donald Trump’s call to upgrade the nation’s energy infrastructure and expedite the permitting process, the U.S. House has approved two measures to reform the federal government’s permitting and siting policies for oil and natural gas pipelines. The bills now await action in the Senate.

In a bipartisan vote of 254 to 175, the House passed HR 2883, the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, sponsored by Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Gene Green (D-TX), on July 19.

The bill would replace the presidential permitting approval needed before building an oil or gas pipeline or electric transmission line that crosses national borders, with a standardized set of requirements any proposed cross-border project must meet. The goal of the legislation is to establish a more transparent, efficient, and effective permitting and review process for energy infrastructure such as pipelines and power lines.

‘An Energy Powerhouse’

“The United States is an energy powerhouse around the world,” Mullin said in a statement. “We want to keep it that way. The construction of these border-crossing facilities should be done effectively—without being caught up in our nation’s politics.

“This bipartisan piece of legislation allows a transparent and efficient process to be followed the same way every time for every project,” said Mullin’s statement.

A second bill, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act (HR 2019), sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), passed by a vote of 248 to 179. The bill is aimed at promoting quicker review of projects to expand or modernize natural gas pipelines and establishes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency in the siting of interstate natural gas pipelines.

“Thanks to the shale energy revolution, America is one of the world’s top producers of natural gas,” Flores said in a statement in support of his bill. “While our nation’s families, industrial, and manufacturing bases rely on this abundant fuel source, some areas of the country lack necessary pipeline infrastructure.

“The lack of infrastructure leads to unnecessarily inflated costs for electricity for consumers and job creators,” said Flores, adding his bill will “encourage a more robust and reliable pipeline infrastructure which, in turn, will deliver clean, affordable natural gas to hardworking American families.”

‘A Very Positive Step’

Bette Grande, a former member of the North Dakota state legislature and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, says the approval process for pipelines needs simplification.

“The efficient and prudent development of energy resources in North Dakota and Canada requires transportation of oil, gas, and byproducts in both directions,” Grande said. “A streamlined process for cross-border pipeline approval and regulation is a very positive step for safety and economics.”

Streamlining Hydropower Projects

One day before it approved the pipeline infrastructure legislation, the House passed bills streamlining construction approval for new hydroelectric power projects, by wide margins.

By a vote of 420 to 2, lawmakers approved an amendment to the 1920 Federal Power Act, sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), to streamline the review process for small conduit hydropower facilities. The provision allows existing conduits through which water flows, including tunnels, canals, pipelines, aqueducts, and other manmade structures, to be fitted with equipment enabling them to generate electricity.

A bill offered by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) to extend the deadline for commencing construction of the Enloe hydroelectric project in Washington state passed on a voice vote.

Also winning approval by a voice vote was a bill cosponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL), the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2017. The bill would amend the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act to strengthen states’ capacities to secure energy infrastructure within their borders against physical and cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, to coordinate such activities across borders, and to mitigate the risk of energy supply interruptions.

Rare Bipartisanship

Craig Rucker, executive director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, says it’s good to see the two parties agree on the need to secure the nation’s energy infrastructure.

“Bipartisanship in energy policy is a rarity these days,” said Rucker. “But when it comes to protecting vital infrastructure and maintaining cybersecurity, it’s good to see differences can be put aside for the sake of public safety.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Official Connections:

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK): https://mullin.house.gov/; https://mullin.house.gov/contact/

Rep. Gene Green (D-TX): https://green.house.gov/; https://green.house.gov/contact/email

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX): https://flores.house.gov/; https://flores.house.gov/contact/