Murkowski Plans Comprehensive Energy Legislation to ‘Refresh’ Current Policy

The chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unveiled plans Jan. 8 to craft comprehensive energy legislation, saying current energy policy needs to be “refreshed.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), speaking at the committee's first meeting of the 114th Congress, said the bill would be centered around four main areas: strengthening supply, modernizing infrastructure, supporting efficiency and ensuring federal accountability.

“I think it's important to focus on some of these areas that we can build out from, based on infrastructure, based on efficiency, and really see if we can't come together to build a refreshed, re-imagined policy,” Murkowski told reporters after a committee business meeting on Keystone pipeline legislation.

Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski and other Republicans on the committee, said more specific aspects of the legislation remain “in the works.”

Grid, Cyber Security

In her introductory remarks, Murkowski highlighted issues she has previously worked on as the committee's ranking member, including nuclear waste disposal, a “move to a more efficient energy system,” as well as grid and cyber security.

“Other potential topics for hearings include electric innovation, nuclear waste policy, [Outer Continental Shelf] development and revenue-sharing, the administration's Quadrennial Energy Review, critical minerals and oversight,” Murkowski said. “We will also hold budget hearings to consider the president's request and return to the practice of having the secretaries of Energy and the Interior regularly appear before this panel.”

The last comprehensive energy bill approved by Congress was the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was signed by President George W. Bush.

Since then, domestic production of oil and natural gas has skyrocketed with the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Renewable energy generation has increased dramatically as well.

“It's been since 2007, you've seen a product coming out of the energy committee that is basically a reform of some of our energy policies, and I have been pushing for several years now to advance some of these ideas,” Murkowski told reporters. “Now we have the opportunity to do just that.”

Push for Energy Exports

Murkowski, whose home state has vast reserves of oil and natural gas, led a push in the 113th Congress to loosen the 40-year-old ban on the export of domestic crude oil, including calls for the Obama administration to use existing authority to end the prohibition put in place in the wake of the Arab oil embargo.

Murkowski also said the committee's first official hearing would be on legislation (S. 33) introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to expedite the Energy Department's approval process for liquefied natural gas exports (see related story).

At the start of the 113th Congress, Murkowski laid out her agenda in a white paper called “Energy 20/20” that included more than 200 policy recommendations ranging from increasing domestic oil production to reforming the renewable fuel standard.

“I don't think it's a secret to those of you on the committee here that my Energy 20/20 book is not out of date yet,” Murkowski said during the committee meeting. “I believe it is in our interest to continue making our energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure.”

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