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Coalition Talks Energy with Upton

The Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition continues to push for the House and Senate to reconcile differences and pass a comprehensive federal energy package. In the most recent of a series of meetings with members of Congress throughout the Great Lakes, the coalition – including Chamber Alliance Director of Government Relations Kent Wood – sat down with Congressman Fred Upton (R – St. Joseph) for an update on the status of a conference committee to hash out the respective energy bills – H.R. 8 and S. 2012.

Congressman Upton spoke to the Coalition’s priorities in the federal energy legislation:

  • Electric grid modernization/reliability provisions – May not be able to carry these through to the final bill because of the Administration’s SAP(Statement of Administration Policy), which Senate Democrats are holding on to.  However, provisions in these categories were inserted in the FAST Act, “the highway bill,” last year.
  • Energy workforce – He supports and expects these provisions to be in the final bill.  In HR 8, he did not want to jeopardize some Republican support, so he let the bill go ahead without the provisions.  Pay-fors will be covered.
  • Ethane storage – The two bills are nearly identical.  He is supportive of the Shell hub project in Pennsylvania.
  • Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) permitting – Will be in the final bill.  Studies show that prices will remain stable.  Either 30 or 45 days is acceptable.  House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer is a strong supporter.
  • Carbon capture and storage – He supports.  He referenced Western Michigan University’s extensive geological library for the state, which indicates where carbon could be stored.

In other comments, he cares about hydro, especially for the West, as do Reps. McMorris, Rogers and Cantwell.  He also cares about the efficiency provisions, but noted that the home builders and realtors are battling over the pay-back period; home builders energized over HR 5307.  He’d like to see Sen. Portman successful with the efficiency provisions.  He also cares deeply about water, “one of the last issues to deal with,” very important to California and Washington, and McCarthy and Boxer are facing off over damming and fish protection.

Strategy for the conference process:  The bill likely won’t get done before Labor Day, but he’s cautiously optimistic about eventual passage.  A Privileged Resolution technique may be employed, but the Senate has to first name its conferees, and Senate Democrats are holding back.  In place of the conference process, Upton is working with leadership in both parties in both houses to identify the things they can all agree on, then proceed from that point.  Leaders of three committees are involved, including Natural Resources on the House side.

Upton also commented on the importance of the pipeline regulatory update bill (Enbridge and Kalamazoo River spill and Line 5 under the Mackinac strait).  He also discussed the missile defense project for the Battle Creek/Kalamazoo area.  He’s a strong supporter and believes it will win on the merits.

-Kent Wood