The head of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers has accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of trying to do an end-run around the conference committee process in order to pass energy legislation that doesn’t have the necessary support.

“Speaker Pelosi is attempting to circumvent long-standing legislative procedures in order to get the energy bill out of conference committee,” said Frank King, chairman of the board of the Texas Alliance. “The leadership of both parties should be allowed to appoint their members to [a] conference committee to work out the differences between the energy bills passed by the House and Senate.

“The speaker’s manipulation of the legislative system is wrong. She should allow the legislative process to work,” King said. “For someone who has said that energy legislation is a ‘flagship issue’ for her, the speaker’s actions are more than a little inconsistent.”

Both Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last week gave up on plans for a formal conference this fall to reconcile their vastly different energy bills (HR 6, HR 3221), which were passed earlier this year. Instead the Democrat leaders intend to work out the differences informally and this has drawn strong objections from Republicans (see Daily GPI, Oct. 12).

Energy committee staffers from both houses and parties began negotiating a compromise bill Monday, but Democrat leaders have taken three controversial energy issues off the table — raising vehicle fuel economy standards, setting nationwide mandates for renewable fuels and electricity, Congressional Quarterly’s Green Sheets reported. These issues will be worked on behind closed doors by Pelosi and Reid.

Reid and Pelosi will engage in what is known as “ping-ponging” — sending the bills back and forth between the two houses — to work out the “hard stuff,” such as fuel economy standards and a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Informal reconciliation of energy legislation has never occurred before, although it has been used on other measures. Reid had hoped to have a formal conference on the energy bill this fall. But to do so the Senate would have needed to find 60 votes to overcome the objections of Republicans, and that wasn’t likely.

Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said last week that the leadership’s decision to forgo a conference could kill the energy bill this year. “I believe that the only way to pass an energy bill…is through a bipartisan conference committee. I remain hopeful that we can still go this route, and that the leadership will keep their word and hold a conference.”

Key elements of the energy policy bill and tax package passed by the House in early August — notably a mandatory 15% RPS, increased taxes on the oil and natural gas industry, and the lack of increased fuel efficiency standards for autos — were expected to spell trouble for a conference on the House measure and Senate bill passed in June (see Daily GPI, Aug. 7; June 25).

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