Bingaman Sets Energy Legislation Markup For Late July

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, late Friday said his panel would start marking up pending energy legislation later this month and said he would give the Bush administration another chance to explain its proposals to allow oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bingaman recently said that because the "near-term problems" involving the California power market and added funding for low-income energy assistance seem to have become less pressing, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will move up its consideration of comprehensive legislation that will address long-term energy issues (see NGI, June 25). Prior to leaving for the July 4 recess, Bingaman also said he planned to set a "tentative schedule" for hearings in July that will lead to a chairman's mark of a comprehensive bill.

At the end of last week, Bingaman issued a calendar for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for July and the early part of August. The schedule calls for the panel to start marking up energy legislation on July 25. "It's the mark up of whatever comprehensive legislation we end up with at that point -- it's not marking up any single, particular bill right now," Bill Wicker, a spokesperson for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told NGI.

Both Bingaman and Sen. Frank Murkowksi (D-AK) have introduced comprehensive energy legislation. Wicker emphasized the point that the mark up doesn't necessarily mean that the panel is marking up one bill or the other. "We're going to be marking up whatever legislation is prepared at that point." Wicker noted that "there's a great deal in common between Bingaman's and Murkowski's bills."

The Bush administration last week presented a 16-page outline related to the White House's comprehensive national energy policy legislative initiatives. Bingaman, in a prepared statement, said the outline is "helpful, even if it is just a repackaging of recommendations that were announced a month ago." At the same time, the New Mexico lawmaker said that the White House submittal did not actually include any legislative language. "We hope to hear from the Administration on the real specifics in the coming month."

As for how the panel will handle its energy agenda in the coming months, Bingaman said "Our approach will be bipartisan, even allowing the Administration another opportunity to explain its proposals to allow oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

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