By a vote of 10-3, the Senate negotiators passed the nearly 1,200-page report on a broad energy bill out of conference late Monday, but not before the Republican majority on the panel shot down nearly every proposal offered by Senate Democrat conferees. The report was to be sent to the House to take up Tuesday.
The comprehensive energy measure is expected to pass handily in the House, which has scheduled a vote on the bill Tuesday. But the legislation could face problems in the Senate from Democrats, who were virtually shut out of the energy negotiations. While Senate Democrat conferees on the committee were given the opportunity to offer amendments to the bill Monday, the Republican majority defeated almost every proposed revision by a 7-6 party line vote. Republicans had a one-vote majority on the conference panel.
In the end, however, three Democrats aligned themselves with Republicans in voting the bill out of conference.
The fact that few of the Democrats’s amendments were accepted may even further fuel their already-existing anger over being excluded from the negotiation process, and prompt them to filibuster the bill when it reaches the Senate floor. Senators will not be allowed to change the conference report on the energy bill once its reaches the floor, so a filibuster is the only recourse for disgruntled Democrats.
Only a handful of Democratic amendments were accepted Monday, including a proposal to insert a renewable portfolio standard (RPF) in the bill and create a consumer advocate office at the federal level.
The RPF proposal, which was offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), was approved after it earned the support of one Republican conferee. “But [this] doesn’t mean it will be part of the conference report,” said Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the conference committee. In fact, “I hope it doesn’t end up being part of the ultimate report.”
Domenici last week said he was extremely hopeful that the measure would clear both the House and Senate before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn this Friday.
The natural gas industry, while losing out on some of its big ticket items, picked up a considerable number of smaller provisions in the Republican draft energy bill which — if enacted — would facilitate increasing production and transportation for natural gas.
Several proposals that were advocated by industry wound up on the cutting-room floor — an inventory of oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), price subsidies for gas produced in Alaska and the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
The bill, however, contains favorable royalty and tax and depreciation provisions for producers and pipeline builders, as well as programs to speed up the process of permitting and leasing. It includes loan guarantees for a pipeline from Alaska and reinforces light-handed regulation of LNG imports.
The following are the policy and tax highlights for natural gas:
The bill also contains a number of other provisions, dealing with a wide variety of energy related topic including the following:
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