House Committee Passes Several Bills of Importance to Public Power

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 28 approved eight bills aimed at modernizing energy infrastructure and environmental laws, several of which are of particular importance to the American Public Power Association.

Of the eight bills passed by the committee, four in particular are of key significance for public power utilities: H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017; H.R. 2910, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act; H.R. 3043, Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017; and H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017.

H.R. 806, which is supported by the Association, is sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas. It gives states more flexibility to implement the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone. H.R. 806, as amended, passed by a vote of 29-24.

H.R. 2910, sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, promotes better coordination among the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other agencies involved in siting interstate natural gas pipelines. The measure, which the Association supports, passed by a vote of 30-23.

The Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., would modernize the licensing and relicensing process at FERC for hydropower projects.

Despite lengthy negotiations, Republican and Democratic committee staff were unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on the measure.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the committee, expressed his desire for bipartisan negotiations to continue. He asked Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., to consider allowing the bill to pass by voice vote in exchange for a commitment to “work with you” before the bill goes to the floor. Pallone agreed with Walden’s proposal and also agreed to withdraw a Democratic substitute amendment.

Reps. Doris Matsui and Raul Ruiz, both Democrats from California, voiced support for hydropower and expressed a desire to keep negotiations going. Ruiz specifically voiced concern that the bill may undermine tribal agreements.

H.R. 3043, as amended (by a substitute amendment from McMorris Rodgers), passed by voice vote. The Association supports H.R. 3043 as approved by the committee.

Another bill supported by the Association, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R. 3053), also cleared the committee.

The measure, sponsored by Energy Subcommittee Chair Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., preserves Yucca Mountain as the most expeditious path for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste disposal while authorizing interim storage, including private storage initiatives, to provide optionality until Yucca Mountain is fully licensed and prepared to receive shipments.

Two amendments by Shimkus were adopted by voice vote. Those amendments express the sense of Congress that the U.S. and Canada should not allow permanent or temporary storage of nuclear waste near the Great Lakes and offer language to prevent ocean disposal of nuclear waste.

H.R. 3053 passed, as amended, by a vote of 49-4.

The remaining four pieces of legislation passed by the committee are as follows:

  • H.R. 2786: sponsored by Reps. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., the bill promotes the development of small conduit hydropower facilities;
  • H.R. 2883: sponsored by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., aims to establish predictable and transparent processes to permit the construction of cross-border pipelines and electric facilities.
  • H.R. 3050: sponsored by Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., the measure aims to enhance the energy emergency planning requirements of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to strengthen the capability of states to secure the energy infrastructure of the United States against physical and cybersecurity threats and mitigate risk of energy supply disruptions. An amendment offered by Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas and Bobby Rush, D-Ill., that directs state energy offices to consult with owners and operators of energy infrastructure in developing a state energy security plan was adopted by voice vote.
  • H.R. 3017: Sponsored by Rep. David McKinley. R-W.Va., the bill reauthorizes the EPA Brownfields Program.

House passes pumped storage bill

Meanwhile, the House on June 27 passed H.R. 1967, the Bureau of Reclamation Pumped Storage Hydropower Development Act, by voice vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., the bill authorizes pumped storage hydropower development that utilizes multiple Reclamation reservoirs.

According to a memo prepared by the House Natural Resources Committee majority staff, the bill is intended to make it clear that Reclamation would be the lead agency which would oversee pumped storage hydropower development at these facilities.

The bill was passed this spring by the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Reposted with permission from Public Power Daily

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