Alaska Republican gears up energy reform package

Alaska Republican gears up energy reform package
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Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE (R-Alaska) took her biggest step to date toward a large-scale overhaul of federal energy policy on Thursday, introducing 17 bills she said could make up parts of an energy reform package this session.

The bills cover a myriad of topics, from electricity reliability to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the production of methane, hydropower or helium. Any of the bills could make up the backbone of a broad energy reform effort, something Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has made one of her top priorities this session.

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“Does this mean all of them are going to part of a broader bill? No,” she said at a briefing with reporters. “But does it mean these are my ideas I would like to have folks catch up on? Yes, absolutely.”

One high-profile piece of legislation missing from the slate introduced Thursday: a bill to lift the federal ban on crude oil exports. Murkowski said she will release that bill separately next week.

Murkowski has long supported lifting the 40-year-old export ban, but it’s an idea that has tenuous support among Democrats and other members, who worry it could raise gas prices.

An oil export ban — like any of the 17 bills she announced Thursday — could be a part of a final energy bill, she said, but she’s not wedded to including anything that could sink that push. That means the oil exports bill could move on its own or attached to something else.

“This is not about sending a message, this is about changing the policy, and how can we change the policy is by winning, and in order to win, we have to make sure we have the votes that are there,” she said. “We’ve been building our case, and we’ve seen a real change in the response and posture of people.”

Murkowski said she could try tying the oil export ban to legislation dealing with trade promotion authority, a topic that could come to the Senate floor next week.

“When you’re talking about oil exports, that’s certainly in the realm of trade,” she said.

Congress hasn’t passed a major energy reform bill since 2007. With Republicans in charge of both chambers of Congress, Murkowski has said she wants to push a energy bill this session, but it’s something she acknowledged will take some degree of bipartisan cooperation, both on her committee and in Congress as large.

Murkowski said she hopes to work “cooperatively and collaboratively” with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the panel, to write a final bill. She’s also been talking with Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who is leading the energy reform push in the House.

“It’s not going to benefit me to try to move a measure that has no bipartisan support,” she said. “I might be able to move it through committee, but if I can’t actually move it through the floor, that’s a lot of work for no gain. We’ve done enough messaging around these parts of late, and I want to actually make some changes to our energy policy.”