Energy lobbyists push to keep 2005 energy bill intact

Two years after celebrating passage of the first comprehensive energy bill in more than a decade, energy lobbyists are now working to preserve their work.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), for example, wrote members before the Memorial Day recess to express its “deep concern” with parts of the Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007 that would repeal sections of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The bill is sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

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The main source of the trade group’s angst is a provision that repeals efforts to ease the process of deciding where to place, or “site,” transmission lines.

Oil and gas lobbyists, meanwhile, are concerned that Rahall’s bill could cut a number of provisions designed to expedite energy production on federal land.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) is holding a news conference today to relate the “potential negative impacts” of the bill, according to a news release.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was the result of three years of negotiations that followed the release of a broad energy policy released by the White House.

During much of the subsequent process, Democrats complained they were left out of the discussions, although the final bill was the product of an open conference and enjoyed bipartisan support on the floor.

Critics panned the measure for its tax breaks to the oil and gas industry, as well as for a perceived backsliding on environmental protections. While many energy lobbyists found the final product unremarkable, it did provide each segment of the energy industry some of what it wanted.

For utilities, the bill included the creation of a federal “backstop” authority over transmission-line siting on energy corridors on federal lands, a provision those companies had long sought.

Siting transmission lines can be a frustrating process that takes years to complete. The 2005 act sought to expedite the construction of power lines in key areas to meet growing demand. According to the EEI letter, siting transmission facilities across federal lands “is among the most difficult … challenges faced by our member companies.”

“We have to build additional transmission capacity,” said Tom Kuhn, EEI’s president and CEO.

Kuhn’s comment came during a recent panel discussion sponsored by the Alliance for Energy and Economic Group, a coalition of energy companies and trade groups. Panel members urged Congress not to repeal provisions in the act.
Dan Naatz, vice president for federal resources for IPAA, said Rahall’s bill would “discourage” energy production and force more reliance on foreign energy sources, and could raise consumer energy prices.

The IPAA objects in particular to the proposed repeal of language in the 2005 bill that requires the Bureau of Land Management to make a decision on a permit application within a 30-day window.

The new legislation also voids certain environmental reviews for drilling in an area where a well pad already is located.