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S. 2012 (114th): North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016

This week, the Senate began debate on the first major energy legislation to be considered since 2007. Introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill -- S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act -- received an unlikely overwhelming bipartisan vote when it passed out of committee 18-4 in September.

In addition, it has the rare accomplishment of being supported by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). This is seen by many as a possible indication of bipartisan support to come among the full Senate, especially after the bitterly partisan divide last year over another energy issue: whether to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

####What the bill would do

The New York Times wrote that the bill is somewhat watered down in order to achieve this bipartisan support: “It is chiefly focused on modernizing energy infrastructure and improving energy efficiency. It does not include language to drastically increase fossil fuel production, as most Republicans would like, nor does it boldly address climate change, as most Democrats want.”

So what would it do? The bill would create or improve several programs designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings, require significant upgrades to the electrical grid including large-scale storage systems for electricity, expedite liquid natural gas exports, loosen permitting rules for construction of natural gas pipelines on federal lands, provide subsidies for hydropower and geothermal, and permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund

####What opponents say

While the support may be bipartisan, so is the opposition. The four senators to vote against the bill in committee were Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation writes, “The provisions are simply a continuation of government meddling in the energy economy and would waste taxpayer resources, override consumer preference, direct money toward politically preferred technologies, and appease special interests.”

Several environmental groups including the Sierra Club wrote in opposing the legislation, “Several provisions in this bill … we believe could cause detrimental effects to public health and our environment. For example, there is no need to exempt hydropower facilities from regulations that have worked for a century. Some provisions could also have unintended severe consequences for EPA public health protections. We are also troubled by the lack of clean energy investments made by a bill that claims to modernize our energy policy.”

####The Administration’s position

The White House has been cautiously supportive of the bill, but notes that it has some problems with it in its current form. “The administration has concerns with other parts of the legislation including provisions that would: generate budgetary scoring issues associated with energy savings contracts, which represent an important tool in advancing Federal sustainability; repeal existing Department of Energy programs that aim to improve efficiency at manufacturing facilities,” the White House wrote.

Still, says the bill’s lead sponsor Murkowski, “We know we're in a place where our [energy] policies have failed to keep up with changes in the market and advances in technology. This is long overdue."

Last updated Jan 30, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Sep 9, 2015.

Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015

This bill amends the Energy Conservation and Production Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with respect to energy efficiency in buildings and appliances.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the Department of Energy (DOE) shall conduct activities with respect to manufacturing energy efficiency.

Vehicle Innovation Act of 2015

DOE shall conduct research, development, engineering, demonstration, and commercial application programs regarding passenger as well as medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles and transit vehicles.

The Federal Power Act is amended with respect to cybersecurity threats, and requirements are prescribed for enhanced electric grid security as well as bulk-power system reliability.

The EPCA is amended regarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The Natural Gas Act is amended with respect to liquefied natural gas exports.

DOE shall conduct programs with respect to electric grid storage and related grid matters.

The Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 is replaced by the Exascale Computing Act of 2015, and DOE shall conduct research for development of two or more exascale computing machine architectures.

The bill amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and specified other Acts regarding:

hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, marine hydrokinetic renewable energy, biomass, oil and gas, helium, specified critical minerals, coal, nuclear energy, 21st century energy workforce development, and recycled carbon fiber and nonrecycled mixed plastics. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and other Acts are amended to:

revise or prescribe requirements for loan and loan guarantee incentives for innovative technologies, and establish an e-prize competition or challenge pilot program to implement community and regional energy solutions to reduce energy costs in high-cost regions. DOE and the Department of the Interior shall establish a joint NEWS Office and Interagency Coordination Committee on the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability.

Interior may develop a current and accurate multipurpose cadastre to support federal land management activities.

The Department of Energy Organization Act is amended to:

direct the President to establish a Quadrennial Energy Review Task Force, rename the DOE Under Secretary for Science as the Under Secretary for Science and Energy, direct the DOE Energy Information Administration (EIA) to develop a plan to identify all oil inventories and other physical oil assets owned by the 50 largest traders of oil contracts, and create within the EIA a Financial Market Analysis Office. The bill establishes a Working Group on Energy Markets.

The EPCA is amended to repeal the mandates for various specified studies, reports, plans, and programs.

The bill establishes a National Park Service Critical Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund, and revises requirements for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund.