Senate energy committee releases Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017

The bill concerns common ground on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s issues, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy

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Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, have introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, according committee statements.

The bill, which is focused on a wide range of energy and natural resources opportunities and challenges, features 11 “titles reflecting common ground on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s issues, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy,” the statement noted.

The bill builds on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which included priorities from 80 Senators and passed the Senate with 85 votes, the statement noted. While that bill fell just short in a bicameral conference with the House of Representatives at the end of last year, it “provided an excellent starting point for Murkowski and Cantwell’s bipartisan efforts in this Congress,” according to the statement.

“Our energy infrastructure is under attack and we need the tools to fix it right now,” Cantwell said in the statement. “Our bipartisan legislation will not only help modernize our energy infrastructure, but secure it from extreme weather, climate change, and serious cyber threats. I am looking forward to continuing to refine this legislation through robust debate and then sending it to the president’s desk.”

Murkowski noted in the statement that it has now been a full decade since Congress has passed legislation to modernize and reform the country’s energy and resource policies.

“We came very close to achieving that goal last year, and have continued to work with our congressional colleagues and a wide range of stakeholders to write another strong bill,” she said. “This stands not only as an opening for bipartisan accomplishment, but more importantly, as a significant opportunity to boost our economic growth, improve our infrastructure, enhance our security, and bolster our global competitiveness – results that we all support and should be working toward.”

According to the statement, as introduced, the bill calls for, among other things:

· Infrastructure: The bill would help modernize the country’s electric grid, enhance cybersecurity safeguards, streamline pipeline permitting, facilitate LNG exports, and ensure a qualified and well-trained workforce

· Efficiency: The bill would include agreements on everything from energy savings performance contracts to the reauthorization of the weatherization assistance and state energy programs

· Supply: The bill would focus on the development of renewable resources, traditional energy, and non-fuel minerals alike, in order to provide for a long-term, American-made energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure

Among other things, the bill notes that to enhance the reliability of the electric grid and reduce the threat of wildfire damage to, and wildfire caused by vegetation-related conditions within, electric transmission and distribution rights of way (ROWs) and adjacent federal land, the secretary concerned – which means the secretary, with respect to public lands, and the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System land – is to issue and periodically update guidance to ensure that provisions are appropriately developed and implemented for utility vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance of ROWs, regardless of the means by which the ROWs are established.

Also, the bill notes that a transmission organization is to submit a report that, for instance, identifies distributed energy resources and interconnected microgrid systems, and evaluates, with due regard for operational and economic benefits and costs, the potential for distributed energy resources and interconnected microgrid systems to be deployed to the transmission organization over the short- and long-term periods in the planning cycle of the transmission organization.

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