Senate takes up energy bill after 2-month delay for Flint

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Tuesday revived a wide-ranging bill that would promote a variety of energy sources, from renewables such as solar and wind power to natural gas, hydropower and geothermal energy.

The bill also would speed federal approval of projects to export liquefied natural gas to Europe and Asia, update building codes to increase efficiency and strengthen electric-grid safety standards among dozens of provisions.

Senate passage is expected this week. The measure must be reconciled with a House-passed bill that boosts oil and natural gas and speeds completion of environmental reviews for a proposed coal export terminal in Washington state. President Barack Obama has threatened the veto the House measure.

If approved by both chambers and signed by Obama, the bill would be first far-reaching energy law in nearly a decade.

"Moving forward with this act will help America produce more energy and bring us one step closer to being an energy superpower," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the bill co-sponsors. "At the same time, it will help Americans save more money and save energy with all of the energy-policy provisions."

The bipartisan bill is widely popular, but was delayed in early February amid a partisan dispute over sending hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency aid to Flint, Michigan, to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes.

Michigan's Democratic senators dropped the Flint provision last week after a months-long standoff with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters said they would seek another way to get the Flint aid package through the Senate.

Congress last approved broad energy measures in 2005 and 2007, during the George W. Bush administration. The two laws aimed to boost U.S. energy independence by cutting reliance on imported oil, boosting fuel economy standards for cars and imposing a mandate for ethanol in gasoline.

Since then, the U.S. energy landscape has changed dramatically, as improved drilling techniques, including hydraulic fracturing, have sparked a years-long boom that has pushed the United States to lead become the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, involves injecting water mixed with sand and chemicals into underground rock formations, allowing oil and gas to flow.