- With the August recess looming, lawmakers in the U.S. Senate are set to vote Tuesday to convene a conference committee with House lawmakers, hoping to reach agreement on the first broad energy legislation since 2007.
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, reportedly held out against the conference vote, seeking concessions from House lawmakers, whose version of the bill inspired a veto threat from President Obama.
- Cantwell and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the senate committee, released a joint statement saying House lawmakers had "agreed a final conference report will not contain measures the president would veto."
After months of debate in both houses of Congress, it appears legislators are preparing the first conference committee on major energy legislation of the Obama era.
"Sens. Cantwell and Murkowski have spent many hours hammering out an agreement on a process and ground rules that will generate a conference report they can both support," a committee spokesperson said in an email Utility Dive. "After consulting with Sen. Reid and Democratic members of the Energy Committee, Sen. Cantwell is recommending her colleagues agree to moving forward with a formal conversation with the House."
"We've got one more week here before we break for August, so my hope is that we'll be able to see some resolve on this," Murkowski said. "There's a lot of legwork that has to go on that will entail staff, just kind of getting organized."
The house voted in late May to enter joint negotiations to reconcile differences between competing proposals. The house approved its energy package, H.R. 8, in a 241-178 vote, but there are significant differences with S. 2012, the senate's Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which passed in April on an 85-12 vote.
There are five titles covered by senate bill: Efficiency, Infrastructure, Supply, Accountability and Conservation Reauthorization. The house version has seven titles, including marine hydrokinetic energy and shared renewables. The house version increases funding for grid infrastructure and looks to streamline siting and approvals for the production and export of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels. Opponents have called it a "backward-looking piece energy of legislation."
The senate's infrastructure title holds provisions to modernize the grid, improve cybersecurity, maintain the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and grow a stronger energy sector workforce. Similar to the house version, the senate infrastructure title streamlines natural gas export projects, though the house bill limits reviews to 30 days while the senate bill limits them to 45 days.