Senate approves first amendments to energy bill

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Senators on Thursday approved four amendments to an energy overhaul bill, the first of what will likely be several amendment votes while the energy bill is on the floor.

The legislation — the first energy rewrite in seven years — would change a host of policies, including provisions to speed up the export of liquefied natural gas, indefinitely expand a conservation fund, update the electricity grid and reform and update other energy policies.   

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Senators had offered 89 amendments to the legislation as of Thursday morning, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiKerry visits Arctic Circle to see climate impacts Senate panel clears EPA spending bill, blocking rules Momentum slows for major energy bill MORE (R-Alaska) said. Several with bipartisan support are set to hit the floor for votes today. 

“It is the beginning of a series of steps that we will take to modernize our nation’s energy, as well as our mineral policies,” Murkowski, a bill co-sponsor, said Thursday.

The first amendment, from Sens. Mike CrapoMike CrapoPost Orlando, hawks make a power play Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance MORE (R-Idaho) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would boost research into advanced nuclear reactor technology in the U.S. It passed on an 87-4 vote.

The amendment would establish modeling and simulation programs for reactor technology, set up user facilities and a “national innovation center” for research sharing and push to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission more involved in reactor research.

“This bill is a strong signal to the rest of the world that we intend to maintain the U.S.’s leadership in nuclear technology,” Crapo said in a floor speech.

The Senate also approved, on a 62-29 vote, an amendment from Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Overnight Healthcare: Dems trying to force Zika vote | White House tries to stall opioids bill for $$ | Free Lyft rides from ObamaCare Overnight Healthcare: New momentum to lift ban on gay men donating blood MORE (D-Mass.) requiring a report on the impact of crude oil exports on U.S. consumers, refiners and shippers. Markey opposed lifting the ban on crude oil exports when lawmakers passed such a measure last year.

Two other amendments — relating to carbon capture technology and manufacturing — were approved on voice votes.

Lawmakers are also set to consider amendments relating to energy reliability, the drawdown of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and funding for an energy technology agency Thursday. 

Murkowski said other votes could come throughout the day. Senate leadership expects to finalize and pass the energy bill — which has broad bipartisan support — sometime next week.