The U.S. Senate voted 85-12 to approve a broad energy bill on April 20 to reflect the significant changes in oil and natural gas production over the past decade, as well as to address alternative energy sources.
S. 2012 streamlines the natural gas export permit application process, ensures natural gas pipelines are permitted more efficiently, which could lower prices for consumers in places like New England, and promotes job diversity in the energy industry.
Known as the Energy Policy Modernization Act, the bill also would speed federal approval of projects to export liquefied natural gas to Europe and Asia, where prices are higher than in the U.S. following a yearlong boom in domestic gas production.
The bill’s authors, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, and Maria Cantwell of Washington, the panel’s ranking Democrat, managed to unite Republicans and Democrats around the energy policy by avoiding divisive topics like climate change and oil and gas exploration that have thwarted other measures.
House and Senate negotiators now must form a compromise between the Senate bill and a similar measure that passed the House last year.
Oil and gas industry advocates are applauding the vote and urging Congress to move quickly to get this legislation to the president’s desk for signature. Passage would represent the first time since 2007 that a significant energy bill reached the White House.
Both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Interstate National Gas Association of America (INGAA) welcomed Senate passage of S. 2012.
“Allowing American natural gas to compete in the world marketplace will benefit consumers, enhance our national security interests, and bolster our global allies’ independence from nations that would use their energy resources as a diplomatic and economic weapon,” said API president and CEO Jack Gerard. “Expanding our export opportunities will also create jobs, strengthen our economy, and our energy security. And independent reports show exporting U.S. natural gas will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Gerard added that the United States needs to invest in reliable infrastructure, and improving the permitting process to approve pipelines would “enhance the delivery of affordable energy to consumers” and reduce the cost of energy in New England where infrastructure limitations have forced consumers to pay “about 53 percent more” for electricity than the rest of country in 2015.
INGAA spokesperson Cathy Landry said getting consensus in Congress for the two bills shouldn’t be a problem.
“Both the House and Senate provisions on pipeline permitting matters are modest in nature, providing incremental transparency and accountability in the permitting and approval of natural gas pipelines,” Landry said. “They are also largely similar. As such, reconciling the two bills on this issue should be a fairly straightforward process.”