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Senate Energy Policy Reform Bill Revived, Fast-Tracked

A sweeping piece of bipartisan energy and natural resources legislation that covers everything from opening more federal lands to sportsmen and better protecting the nation's pipeline infrastructure from cyber security threats was revived this week and put on the fast-track for consideration before the full Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took procedural steps late Wednesday to circumvent a committee and put S1460 on the calendar. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the bill, which builds on S2012, also known as the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. That legislation died in conference last December after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) declared that lawmakers had run out of time to reach a compromise on outstanding issues.

The Senate bill's provisions are aimed at saving energy, expanding supply, bolstering innovation, securing the electric grid and boosting energy trade, among other things. Murkowski said it's been a decade since Congress reformed U.S. energy and resource policies. Cantwell added that the legislation would "not only help modernize our energy infrastructure, but secure it from extreme weather, climate change and serious cyber threats."

The bill if enacted would streamline pipeline permitting, better facilitate liquefied natural gas exports and provide more resources for workforce training in the energy sectors. It would also enhance cybersecurity safeguards and it addresses modernizing the electric grid.

The legislation reauthorizes the land and water conservation fund as well as the historic preservation fund and creates a new national park maintenance fund. The bill would also affect the country's major land agencies that have a strong hand in overseeing oil and gas development, such as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

S2012 passed the Senate last year with 85 votes. It's unclear when exactly the bill might come up for debate. McConnell's move to fast track it comes as Republicans are trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but also as the White House touts the nation's energy dominance during what it's calling "energy week."

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