Climate measure ditched as panel seeks bipartisan energy bill

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, July 29, 2015- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee rejected a climate change proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the panel continued to debate amendments on a broad, bipartisan energy bill. 

The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which the committee started making up on Tuesday, covers areas such as electric grid modernization and energy storage and includes provisions regarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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Sanders, who is running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, introduced what he called a “provocative amendment” that would establish a sense of the Senate that “climate change is real and is caused by human activities.”

The panel voted against Sanders' amendment, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., noting that, “this is not the pathway to try to make things happen.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said he believed the measure “would severely degrade the bipartisan support that this legislation currently enjoys.”

Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., are attempting to leave out particularly contentious issues during the markup process in an effort to get the bill to the Senate floor.

During Wednesday's meeting, the committee completed about half of the 94 amendments that senators submitted for consideration.

Murkowski noted that the panel moved through about 20 amendments, including a manager's package, during the Wednesday markup. “We are moving along…I'm pretty convinced we will be able to move through on good order tomorrow, and be able to report this energy bill by tomorrow,” she said.

The energy reform bill does not include any provision to lift the export ban on crude oil, although Murkowski has a separate bill, the Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Act of 2015, which would authorize the export of all forms of crude oil and condensate produced in the United States.

Several senators withdrew amendments during Tuesday's hearing that they plan to introduce on the Senate floor when the entire chamber considers the bill.

In Wednesday's markup, the panel passed an amendment introduced by Manchin that clarifies how the Department of Energy (DOE) allocates Coal Technology Program research dollars, as well as one from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that would require DOE to conduct a study on how liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports impact various regions of the country, and another from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would increase cybersecurity protections for public power utilities through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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Sanders also proposed a failed amendment that would have provided grants for low-income families to buy solar energy systems.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, introduced an amendment related to LNG exports that inspired a few minutes of debate, but ultimately failed to pass. The measure would have required DOE to assess the economic impact of any future LNG exports.

A House subcommittee approved its version of an energy reform bill last week. The full House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to consider the bill after the August recess.

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