Sen. Murkowski Leads Senate Consideration of Broad, Bipartisan Energy Bill

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today commenced debate on the Senate floor of S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016. During her remarks, Murkowski highlighted the benefits of this broad, bipartisan energy bill and the bipartisan process surrounding the bill.

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Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery.

“Mr. President, I have come to the Floor to begin the Senate’s debate on S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. This is the first major energy bill the Senate has debated in more than eight years. It is a good bill, a timely bill, a bipartisan bill, and it deserves overwhelming support from this chamber.   

From the outset, I want to thank my Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell of Washington State, for working with me to craft this bill. I also want to thank the members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for their ideas and support in bringing it to this point. 

The bill before us today is the result of more than a year of hard work in our Committee. That work began last January, in conversations with members about their energy-related priorities.  And it continued with our Committee staff, who held dozens of bipartisan listening sessions with stakeholders here in Washington, DC, elsewhere throughout the country, and as far away as Kwigillingok, Alaska. 

After our listening sessions, we came back here and rolled up our sleeves. We held four oversight hearings, followed by six legislative hearings on a total of 114 separate measures. We gathered testimony from experts and advocates, from private citizens and Administration officials, from our home States and just about every other State. We gathered all the perspectives we could about what Congress should do – and what Congress needs to do – to ensure that federal policies catch up with years of change in energy markets and energy technologies.   

From there, we entered weeks of bipartisan negotiations to determine which bills should be incorporated into our draft text, and ultimately agreed to include close to 50 of them. That includes bills from members on both sides of aisle, both on and off of our Committee.   

The next step was our last step in Committee. Last July, we held three days of markups and dispensed with nearly 60 amendments. And through a strongly bipartisan vote of 18-4, we agreed to report our energy bill to the full Senate for further consideration.  

Now, this is not the bill I would have written on my own. It is not the bill Senator Cantwell would have written on her own, or the bill that any other member would have written on his or her own.  But it is the bill that we wrote together. As a committee. As a team. As a group of 22 Senators who care deeply about our nation’s energy policies. 

We spent months working to modernize our energy policies to address both opportunities and challenges. And we found common ground in many areas – more, perhaps, than any of us expected, and certainly enough to write a good, solid bill. We ultimately organized our efforts into five main titles – efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation. 

We agreed to include the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, an efficiency measure sponsored by Senator Portman of Ohio, Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire, and 13 other members. 

We agreed to include the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, from Senator Barrasso of Wyoming and 17 other members. 

We agreed to include my American Mineral Security Act, which is also sponsored by Senator Risch of Idaho, Senator Crapo of Idaho, and Senator Heller of Nevada.

We agreed to promote the use of clean, renewable hydropower – a priority of most members from Western states, including Senator Gardner of Colorado, Senator Daines of Montana, Senator Cantwell, and myself.   

We agreed to expedite the permitting of natural gas pipelines, without sacrificing any environmental review or public participation – an effort that was led by Senator Capito of West Virginia. 

We agreed to a new pilot program for oil and gas permitting – one of several good ideas contributed by Senator Hoeven of North Dakota.  

We took up a proposal from Senator Collins of Maine to boost the efficiency of schools, and a measure from Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota to increase the efficiency of buildings owned by non-profits.

We agreed to improve our nation’s cybersecurity – based on legislation from Senator Risch of Idaho and Senator Heinrich of New Mexico, and an amendment from Senator Flake of Arizona. 

We also made innovation a key priority in our bill, in recognition that there is a limited – but useful – role for the federal government to play early on in the development of new technologies.

We agreed to reauthorize many of the energy-related portions of the America COMPETES Act – thanks to the leadership of Senator Alexander of Tennessee.   

We agreed to promote geothermal energy – a key issue for Senator Wyden of Oregon and Senator Heller of Nevada. 

We agreed to promote vehicle innovation, an issue championed by Senator Peters of Michigan, Senator Stabenow of Michigan, and Senator Alexander of Tennessee. 

We agreed to renew the coal R&D program at the Department on Energy, based on a proposal authored by Senator Manchin of West Virginia, Senator Capito of West Virginia, and Senator Portman of Ohio. 

We agreed to protect electric reliability and reform the Loan Guarantee Program at the Department of Energy. We agreed to reauthorize – and reform – the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And we agreed to clean up the U.S. Code, by deleting dozens of provisions within it that are obsolete or duplicative.  

That’s just a sample of the good work we have included in our bipartisan bill. Many of the members I just listed are responsible for not just one provision in the bill, but quite a few.  And this truly was a team effort. According to our count, more than half of the members of the Senate are sponsors or cosponsors of at least one provision this bill already contains.  

You may ask, well, what does this all mean? How will the bill help our country, and how will it help our people? 

As it turns out, there are many practical benefits to modernizing our energy policies. This bill will help America produce more energy. It will help Americans save energy. It will help ensure that energy can be transported from where it is produced, to where it is needed. It will bolster our status as the most innovative nation in the world. It will allow our manufacturers to thrive, without fears of high costs or crippling shortages. And it will cement our status as a global energy superpower, as we provide a share of our surplus to our allies and trading partners.  

The Energy Policy Modernization Act will boost our economy, our security, and our international competitiveness, all at the same time. It will save families and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars, freeing up budgets for other priorities. It will help assure that our energy remains abundant and affordable, even as it becomes increasingly clean and diverse.  And it will do all of this without raising taxes, without imposing new mandates, and without adding to the federal deficit. 

This is a good bill. It is designed to go the distance and designed to make a difference. And I’m confident that as we proceed through our floor debate, we can make it even better. If we commit to an open amendment process, without gimmicks or ‘gotchas’ or poison pills, we can add even more good ideas, from even more members, than we already have. 

On that note, I strongly encourage members to come down and file their amendments as soon as possible. 

I would also remind the Senate that if an amendment costs money, it will need to be paired with a viable offset. 

And I would remind the Senate that we are considering S. 2012, not a House shell, so we will need to table all tax amendments – lest we wind up with a blue slip that prevents us from advancing to conference. 

Senator Cantwell and I know that in many ways, an open amendment process on an energy bill will be like unkinking a hose. We know that dozens of members have hundreds of ideas for what this bill could include. And we are going to work as hard as we can to process as many of those ideas as possible.   

We’ve already lost a few working days due to a major snowstorm. But that’s nothing compared to the more than eight years we’ve lost as we let our energy policies languish. Everyone here knows that our policies have failed to keep up with changes in the market and advances in technology. Everyone here knows that our policies are now increasingly outdated, with opportunities being ignored and challenges going unaddressed. 

It’s time to debate – and pass – an energy bill here in the Senate. And after the highway bill, education reform, and many others, the good bill put forward by those of us Energy and Natural Resources Committee promises to be our next bipartisan accomplishment on behalf of the American people. 

Mr. President, I yield the floor.”