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Murkowski Says Time, Calendar Biggest Obstacles to Omnibus Energy Bill

After the Senate's passage of an omnibus energy bill on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she thought the calendar was the biggest obstacle to getting the legislation across the finish line.

"One of the concerns that I think that we have, or the obstacles that we have in front of us, is time and the calendar, and the fact that in order to have a conference, the House and the Senate have to be in town at the same time," Murkowski said during a press conference immediately after the Senate passed S 2012, also known as the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, on an 85-12 vote (see Daily GPIApril 20).

"You look at the calendar going forward, and we have got some work to do. There are some keen differences between the House bill and the Senate bill, so we've got our work cut out for us."

The Senate bill calls for, among other things, changes to the approval process for proposals to site, build, expand or operate liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. Specifically, under projects that require FERC or U.S. Maritime Administration approval, the secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) would be required to issue a final decision on any application to authorize LNG exports within 45 days of completion of the required review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The House passed HR 8, also known as the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, last December, but the White House hinted it would veto that bill, in part because it contains a provision giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to set deadlines for other agencies that review projects proposed under the Natural Gas Act (see Daily GPIDec. 3, 2015).

"We're going to be needing to move, I think very quickly, as quickly as we can," Murkowski said. "We have some issues that we have some differences on. Those can be challenges, but I think we have demonstrated with the process that we have used here on the Senate side -- both through committee and now through the floor -- we can work through issues. [The] calendar is a little more challenging, so that's why I want to get on it as quickly as possible."

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, tried to assuage opposition to the bill by liberals in Congress, some of whom are against LNG exports.

"We codified into the law the process that [Department of Energy] Secretary [Ernest] Moniz says that the DOE currently follows on those exports, and so we're satisfied with the language and think that it is a fair description of the process that takes place today."

Murkowski said she wants to see an energy conference between members of the House and Senate. It would be the first since 2005, she said.

"We've kind of forgotten how to do a conference around here," Murkowski said. "I think it's time we get back to that. I think we need to retrain a little bit on that, and it is my hope that it will be a full and a formal conference. In 2005, the House led that conference, so it will be the Senate's turn. And I'm going to be encouraging a full conference, the way it used to be."

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