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EPA Rule Transparency, Natural Gas Pipeline Energy Bills Advance in House Committee

A bill approved by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday could prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from finalizing new rules that cost more than $1 billion if the Energy Department determines they will hurt the economy.

The Energy Consumers Relief Act (H.R. 1582) authored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) was approved by a vote of 25–18. The bill seeks to increase transparency for major EPA rules and requires that before finalizing any new rules estimated to cost more than $1 billion, the agency must submit a report to Congress detailing certain cost, benefit, energy price, and job impacts. The EPA must also consult with the Energy Secretary and other relevant agency heads, which must make a determination regarding the impacts of the rule.

Also approved (by a 28–14 vote) on Wednesday was the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (H.R. 1900). Authored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), that bill seeks to help modernize the federal review process for interstate natural gas pipeline permits. According to Pompeo, the bill also facilitates construction of new pipelines by setting reasonable deadlines for review and helps hold agencies involved in the permitting process accountable.

On Wednesday, H.R. 83, a bill authored by Rep. Donna Christensen (D-Va.), was approved by voice vote. The legislation would require the Secretary of the Interior to assemble a team of technical, policy, and financial experts "to address the energy needs of the insular areas of the United States and the Freely Associated States" through the development of energy action plans aimed at increasing the use of energy resources.

Last week, the full House approved H.R. 2609, the FY14 Energy and Water Appropriations bill by a vote of 227–198. Compared to the $34.8 billion Senate version, the House’s $30.4 billion bill slashes $1.4 billion in funding to the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) renewable energy and scientific programs, including an 81% spending cut on the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program. The House bill only provides $983 million to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), while the Senate version provides $2.3 billion to EERE.

Passage of H.R. 2609 prompted the release of a statement of administrative policy from the White House, announcing strong opposition and threatening a presidential veto to budget cuts at ARPA-E, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, the Office of Science, and renewable energy spending. The statement also stressed the administration’s strong objections to the bill’s funding of the Yucca Mountain geological repository project.

"The Administration is disappointed that the Committee has failed to embrace the practical solutions proposed in the President’s Nuclear Waste Strategy that were based on the concepts put forward by the non-partisan Blue Ribbon Commission. This priority in the FY 2014 Budget is comprised of important elements for a successful waste program, such as consent-based siting, interim storage of waste, and program funding reforms that are essential to the success of a Nuclear Waste Program," it said.

Sources: POWERnews, House

Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

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