House passes energy policy overhaul bill

House passes energy policy overhaul bill

The House passed a Republican-backed bill to overhaul federal energy policy on Thursday, though the legislation faces a veto threat from President Obama.

On a 249-174 vote, lawmakers approved Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) legislation, which would update federal energy laws and regulations for the first time since 2007.

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The bill looks to modernize energy infrastructure and increase energy efficiency standards, as well as update other federal energy regulations and policies. Upton and Republicans have hailed it as an important way to keep federal policy up to date with growing energy production in the United States.

“A decade ago no one could have imagined where we would be in 2015 and how much the energy script would be flipped in our favor,” he said during floor debate this week.

“But now that we are here, it is time to bring our energy policy in line with the new realities. It’s time we put the scarcity mindset in the rear view mirror and say yes to energy and yes to jobs.”

The bill contains provisions to speed up the permitting process for pipelines and energy projects, something Republicans say is necessary after the Keystone XL pipeline was marred in a lengthy administrative review.

It also looks to expand liquefied natural gas exports and hydropower, and contains provisions to improve energy efficiency and maintain security and reliability of the electricity grid.

Democrats bucked at the measure, however. When a stripped-down version of the bill moved through an Energy and Commerce Committee subpanel over the summer, it passed with unanimous support, but Democrats said Thursday that Republicans had packed the final version with too many provisions they couldn’t support.

Specifically, said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the committee’s ranking member, the legislation does nothing to expand renewable power in the United States and doesn’t fund new energy infrastructure projects. Members also cut out a Democratic-backed workforce training program for women and minorities.

The bill “has one central theme binding its titles: an unerring devotion to the energy of the past,” he said. “Provision after provision favors an energy policy dominated by fossil fuels and unnecessary energy use. It is the Republican Party's 19th century vision for the future of U.S. energy policy in the 21st century.”

The White House, too, came out against the bill earlier this week, threatening to veto it due to several regulatory provisions in it.

Members approved a handful of amendments to the bill, including one to permit crude oil exports and speed up permitting for pipelines and transmission lines that cross international borders.

Senators cleared their own energy overhaul out of committee over the summer. The bill, which has broad bipartisan support, is likely to come to the floor for deliberations after the New Year, sponsor Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said at an event hosted by The Hill on Thursday.

—Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.