Top House energy leader sets broad agenda for 2015 Congress

15 July 2014 22:36 Source:ICIS News

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The top House energy leader said on Tuesday that he hopes to advance a broad energy production and infrastructure agenda next year after Republicans regain majority control in the US Senate.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan) told an energy industry conference that “if the pundits are right, then Republicans are going to have an opportunity, and we’re going to have to prove that we can govern”.

Many observers think that Republicans may be able to win back majority control in the US Senate, which now has a Democrat majority of 55-45, including two independents that caucus with the Democrats.  Republicans already have a comfortable majority in the House.

In the midterm election on 4 November, 36 Senate seats are in play, about one-third of the 100-seat chamber.

Of those 36 seats, Democrats must defend 21 while Republicans must defend 15 seats.  For historical and other reasons, Republicans are judged to have a reasonable chance of picking up a net gain of six seats to win the majority.

Upton apparently is anticipating that shift for when the new Congress, the 114th, convenes in January next year.

In outlining his legislative and policy agenda on energy, Upton told the conference that “Yes, we need willing partners in the Senate and the White House, and I believe that come next year, the time will be right to get these policies moving”.

Citing major new US oil and natural gas resources developed from shale deposits over the last several years, Upton said that the country is in “a new era of energy abundance, and we need to usher in a new era for energy policy”.

He outlined what he termed “the five pillars of the ‘Architecture of Abundance’”.

Upton said that Congress must act in the new year to modernise and update the nation’s energy distribution infrastructure, including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project.

He raised concerns about “the administration’s aggressive approach to limit and undermine critical base load sources of power generation such as coal and nuclear”. 

Upton said that Congress has to re-establish control “to make sure that EPA’s new power plant rules are achievable in the real world, and to put Congress back in the driver’s seat on the rule for existing plants”.

For the third and fourth pillars, Upton listed accelerating energy and manufacturing construction permits, and prioritising legislation to spur greater energy efficiencies.

That, he said, “also means updating laws that haven’t adapted to today’s new energy realities, like the renewable fuel standard”.

Lastly, Upton said that the US should use its newfound energy abundance as a diplomatic and foreign policy tool.

“We can take care of our domestic needs and have enough energy left to let our allies buy it from us, rather than being held hostage to unstable regions of the world,” he said.

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