The leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unveiled an energy reform package Wednesday that includes major policy priorities from both Republicans and Democrats.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the panel, released the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 Wednesday along with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the committee’s top Democrat.
The bill would set a deadline for the federal government to decide whether to approve or deny applications to export liquefied natural gas, indefinitely renew the government’s conservation funding program and push toward an electric grid that is better prepared for cyber security and renewable energy, among other provisions.
Mine Permitting Reform Included
Among them was an overhaul of the federal mine permitting process. The bill also includes budget increases for geological surveying. The committee repeatedly emphasized the bipartisan nature of the compromise, which avoided hot-button issues like exporting crude oil, a priority for Republicans but something that Democrats have previously staunchly opposed.
The bill would achieve Republican priorities such as eliminate outdated or redundant mandates such as the long mine-permitting process, and deliver on Democrats’ priorities such as encouraging energy efficiency in federal and commercial buildings, modernizing the electric grid and shoring up its ability to adjust to an increase in renewable energy, among other policies.
The bill was announced on the same day that the House voted to approve its own energy package, a bipartisan bill that is much less ambitious than the Senate version. It is believed that the bills could be reconciled in a House-Senate conference.
A Game Changer for US Industry
The mining and energy modernization aspects of the bill are not just necessary, but crucial to the survival of both metals and manufacturing businesses. Changing the federal permitting process has long been the objective of US-based miners such as Molycorp and federal dollars for upgrades of regional energy grids has the potential to greatly expand renewable energy generation. If this bill can secure the bipartisan votes it was designed to capture, then it can be a real game changer for US energy and manufacturing.