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Energy Reform Bill Could Soon Reach Senate Floor, Says Committee Chair

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) hinted during a hearing this week that the comprehensive energy bill passed last summer through the Committee on Energy & Natural Resources could soon reach the Senate floor for a vote.

Murkowski, who chairs the committee, brought in a number of experts, including Energy Information Administration head Adam Sieminski, to testify Tuesday on a range of issues affecting the near-term outlook for energy and commodity markets.

The hearing’s expert panel testified on the price forecast for crude oil and the potential impact of lifting economic sanctions against Iran, along with political instability in oil producing countries, shifts in electric generation and pricing, the need for additional natural gas pipeline capacity to fuel power plants and improve reliability in the Northeast, and the Bureau of Land Management’s recent moratorium on federal coal leasing (see Daily GPI, Jan. 15), among other topics.

At the close of the hearing, Murkowski noted the changes taking place across the energy industry and the need to update U.S. energy policy.

“When you think about what has been discussed here today, we really are at a point of substantial change,” Murkowski said before adding that current policies “juxtaposed to the political and geopolitical aspects of energy, the pricing situation, infrastructure, it begs for a modernization of our energy policies, and that’s what [Ranking Member] Sen. [Maria] Cantwell [D-WA] and the members of this committee have produced.”

Murkowski said she and Cantwell hope to move their energy bill “quickly” through the Senate.

“I think it is an imperative and an imperative to our economy,” Murkowski said.

Afterwards, Murkowski described the hearing as “vital to efforts to modernize energy policies.”

“It is fitting that we hold this hearing on the broad energy outlook shortly before the full Senate is expected to turn to our broad energy bill,” she said. “It is my hope that we will gather critical current information to inform our thinking before we head to the Senate floor to begin that debate.”

Murkowski and Cantwell’s energy bill, titled the Energy Policy Modernization Act, passed through committee last summer (see Daily GPI, July 31, 2015). Among other things, the version of the bill passed through committee proposed a number of reforms on exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

One issue Murkowski had prioritized at the time was the lifting of the nation’s longstanding crude oil export ban, something Congress accomplished during the appropriations process last month (see Shale Daily, Dec. 16, 2015).

The House of Representatives passed its own energy bill last month, called the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (see Daily GPI, Dec. 3, 2015). The bill includes provisions that would speed federal reviews of natural gas infrastructure projects, including pipelines and LNG terminals, but White House officials indicated at the time that President Obama would veto the House’s energy legislation.

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