Senate revives its energy reform bill

Senate revives its energy reform bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate resumed debating its energy reform package on Tuesday afternoon after it stalled months ago amid a debate over aid for Flint, Mich., a city that has been suffering from lead contamination in its drinking water.

The bill, which would be the first major energy reform law since 2007, includes a host of policy changes aimed at updating federal policies. It touches on issues such as electric grid modernization, energy efficiency upgrades and natural gas exports, although it avoids the most controversial Democratic or Republican proposals.


“This is important for a host of different reasons,” Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees Senate votes to extend key funding mechanism for parks MORE (R-Alaska), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairwoman and lead author of the bill, said in a Tuesday floor speech.

“Moving forward with this act will help America produce more energy, and at the same time it will help Americans save more money and save energy with all of the energy efficiency provisions. … It will strengthen our status as the best innovator in the world, and it will bring us another step closer to becoming a global energy superpower.” 

Leadership originally brought the bill to the floor in January, hoping for an easy, bipartisan vote on passage. 

But Democrats rallied around a plan to add money for Flint to the bill and blocked debate on a package that didn’t include it. 

For more than two months, members worked to include the provision in the legislation and overcome a hold placed on the package by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 New act can help us grapple with portion of exploding national debt MORE (R-Utah). But last week, Democrats agreed to drop the Flint provision and move the package along without it. 

That process started on Tuesday, when the Senate approved 29 non-controversial amendments on a voice vote. Members considered another eight amendments on Tuesday afternoon, including a measure to include energy efficiency into federal mortgage valuations and another to tweak how the government spells oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  A final passage vote is expected on Wednesday morning. 

“Hopefully, today we will see the last day of debate on our energy bill,” Murkowski said, calling it a “broad, bipartisan and, some would suggest, long-stalled energy bill.”

“We need to pass this bill,” Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate votes to extend key funding mechanism for parks White House poised to take action on AI, 5G Overnight Energy: States press Trump on pollution rules | EPA puts climate skeptic on science board | Senate tees up vote on federal lands bill MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the energy committee, added. “That’s why we’ve been so persistent.”

—This post was updated at 6:36 p.m.