Senators strike deal on sweeping energy bill

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The leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unveiled an energy reform package Wednesday that includes some major policy priorities from both Republicans and Democrats.
 
The bill would set a deadline for the federal government to decide on applications to export liquefied natural gas, indefinitely renew the government’s key conservation funding program and push toward an electric grid that is better prepared for cyber security and renewable energy, among other provisions. 
 
 
The bill, with more than 300 pages in five titles, is the result of extensive negotiations between the senators’ staff that started in December, along with hearings on 114 bills and dozens of listening sessions with stakeholders, top aides said. 
 
In presenting the bill, the committee repeatedly emphasized the bipartisan nature of the compromise, which avoided hot-button issues like exporting crude oil, on which the senators disagree.
 
“It was a priority of the chairman to move a bill that was bipartisan in nature and that had the ranking member’s support,” said Robert Dillon, Murkowski’s spokesman.
 
“It’s not the easiest way to write legislation, especially nowadays. But it is the best way to ensure that legislation has the best chance of passing the full Senate.”
 
That does not mean that Murkowski is abandoning her other energy priorities, like lifting the 40-year-old ban on oil exports, Dillon said.
 
“We’re really proud of where we are, we’re proud of the bill,” said Rosemarie Calabro Tully, Cantwell’s spokeswoman. “There are a lot of seriously good things in it. But obviously you don’t get everything.”
 
The bill’s other provisions would eliminate outdated or redundant mandates, encourage energy efficiency in federal and commercial buildings, modernize the electric grid and shore up its ability to adjust to an increase in renewable energy, among other policies.
 
It includes top Republican priorities like the natural gas exports and eliminating outdated language, along with Democratic priorities like indefinite renewable of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and electric grid improvements.
 
The legislation also emphasizes the position that Murkowski and Cantwell share on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: that oil sales should not be used for unrelated costs, including the highway bill unveiled Tuesday in the Senate.
 
The Energy Committee will start debating and potentially voting on the bill next week.
 
The announcement from Murkowski and Cantwell came the same day that a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted on its energy reform package.
 
Some similar policies are in both bills, but the House bill has even fewer major legislative changes in an attempt to stay bipartisan.