REPUBLICAN-LED SENATE WOULD PUSH LNG EXPORTS, KEYSTONE, BARRASSO SAYS

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer Bloomberg

The Senate would prioritize passing legislation that would expedite the Energy Department's approval process for liquefied natural gas exports and authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline if Republicans win control of the chamber this fall, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg BNA.

Barrasso, a member of Senate Republican leadership, said in an on-camera interview July 30 that senators “overwhelmingly support” House-passed legislation to speed the LNG approval process and he is confident the chamber would pass the bill “today” if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were to allow a vote.

Republicans are “not measuring the drapes” but are “talking about what things would look like if we were fortunate enough to find ourselves in the majority” following the fall elections, Barrasso said. He said Republicans feel a “dozen, maybe 14,” Senate races are “in play” and said the party is “working very hard” in each of those states.

Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon and senator since 2007, had been sharply critical of President Barack Obama's use of the executive branch to enact environmental regulations without seeking congressional approval.

“We're working very hard to try to put the Republicans in the majority so we can change the direction of the country,” Barrasso said.

Push for Speedier LNG Export Approvals.

Legislation (H.R. 6) in the House, sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), would require the Energy Department to decide whether to grant liquefied natural gas export licenses to countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the U.S. within 30 days of a final environmental analysis from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. H.R. 6 passed the House June 25 by a vote of 266-150, with the support of 46 Democrats.

A companion Senate bill (S. 2494), sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would require the Energy Department to make a decision within 45 days. Gardner and Udall will face each other in Colorado's Senate election this fall.

The legislative prospects are considered dim during this session of Congress due to time constraints, a likely fight over amendments and Reid's non-commitment when asked about allowing a vote on the bill.

Barrasso has long pushed for consideration and votes on amendments to expedite the LNG export approval process. He attempted to add LNG amendments to a Ukrainian aid package in March and a bill to extend federal unemployment compensation program in April, among several attempts.

Keystone Would Be Priority.

Another priority if the Republicans win control of the Senate would be passing legislation to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, Barrasso said.

Several attempts to advance legislation related to Keystone have stalled over the last several months. A Senate vote on a Keystone bill (S. 2280) was nearly secured in conjunction with consideration of an energy efficiency bill (S. 2262), but a squabble over amendments ultimately derailed votes on both bills.

Legislation authorizing Keystone would pass “today” if Reid were to allow a vote, according to Barrasso.

Barrasso also said there has been a “long tradition” of attaching policy riders to appropriations legislation in the Senate, although he called for a return to regular order in the process.

Republicans have used riders in the appropriations process to fight back against proposed Environmental Protection Agency carbon pollution guidelines, Clean Water Act rulemakings and other regulations from the Obama administration.

Fall Elections ‘Critical.’

Barrasso said it is crucial for Republicans to regain control of the Senate to force votes on environmental and energy priorities. Asked about races like those in Kentucky and West Virginia where Democratic candidates have vigorously opposed EPA regulations, he said Republicans need to win so they can set the policy priorities of the chamber.

In the Kentucky Senate race, both Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, current Kentucky secretary of state, have opposed the EPA's proposed carbon standards for existing power plants as potentially devastating to the local economy and likely to cost jobs.

Similar conditions prevail in the West Virginia Senate race. Republican nominee Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic nominee Natalie Tennant, the current West Virginia secretary of state, have both expressed strong opposition to the power plant standards.

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