Republican News

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House - Senate Energy Conference yesterday made significant progress toward a comprehensive energy bill by resolving several outstanding energy issues. The resolution is the culmination of over two months of negotiations by staff and Conference members. The next meeting of the House - Senate Energy Conference is scheduled for Thursday September 19, 2002. Agreed to by the House - Senate Energy Conference: Tier II Issues ∙ Sen. Ben Campbell (R-Colo.) amendment on Indian Energy - Senator Campbell’s amendment broadens a previous Senate provision on Indian Energy and works to assist Native American tribes choosing to lease their lands for energy production. The existing Senate bill streamlined the process for tribes to site refineries, transmission and electrical generating facilities on lands. The amendment by Senator Campbell would include tribes with natural gas, oil and coal reserves. ∙ Clean Coal provisions - This provision authorizes $200 million per year from FY 2003 until FY 2011 for a clean coal power initiative. The initiative encourages research that advances efficiency, environmental performance and cost competitiveness that have currently been demonstrated in coal-based electricity generation. ∙ Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline provisions (not including financial incentives or loan guarentees) - This provision sets up a streamlined process for permitting and construction of the project. The initiative also provides for the expansion of the project, expedites judicial review, bans a route through the Beaufort Sea and mandates a route through Alaska. ∙ Energy efficiency - The initiative encourages federal agencies to participate in state or regional “demand reduction programs” that reduce energy use. Such programs have provided cost-effective energy savings in the past. ∙ Personnel and training - This provision requires the Department of Energy and the Department of Labor to monitor workforce trends in key energy technology industries. If a worker shortage is projected, funds may be made available for traineeships and other grant programs to provide workforce training. This will ensure a consistent supply of workers to support the growing needs of the energy sector in the coming decades. ∙ Renewable energy - The initiative creates a new Environmental Protection Agency - Department of Energy program to identify and promote the purchase of renewable energy products as well recognize companies that produce such products. ∙ Rural and remote electricity construction - This provision authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Rural Utilities Service, to make grants and loans to help rural and remote communities that have electricity costs greater than 150% of national average. These may be used to build and upgrade electric generation, transmission and distribution facilities to reduce the price of electricity. Tier I issues ∙ Pipeline safety - The initiative would require natural gas pipeline operators to conduct integrity assessments on a regular basis. The House and Senate forged a compromise that would require natural-gas pipeline operators to inspect pipelines for safety defects every 10 years. The legislation requires older and pipelines more prone to problems to be inspected within the first five years, and inspections for other pipelines following that. Pipeline owners are then required to report the results to the Department of Transportation. Additional provisions would also authorize a grant program for non-profits, establish coordination of environmental reviews to enable to timely pipeline repairs, increases civil penalties, extends criminal penalties for damaging pipeline to intrastate facilities that affect intrastate or foreign commerce, establish operator qualification programs, establish state pipeline safety advisory committees, provide whistleblower protections and establish a research and development program. ∙ Price Anderson and other nuclear power provisions - This section re-authorizes the Price Anderson Act. That Act sets forth a framework for liability and compensation to the public for injury arising from a nuclear incident. Additional nuclear provisions passed by the Energy Conference include the clarification of Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses. The licenses would cover forty years of nuclear plant operations, clarifying that construction does not count against the operations period. Included was also an initiative that provides additional restrictions on the Department of Energy’s ability to sell or transfer uranium, subjecting sales to annual limitations. ###