White House threatens to veto House energy bill

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The White House has threatened to veto an energy bill sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, in part because it would broaden the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to impose deadlines on other federal agencies reviewing the environmental impacts of natural gas pipeline expansions.

The Obama administration “strongly opposes H.R. 8 because it would undermine already successful initiatives designed to modernize the nation's energy infrastructure and increase our energy efficiency,” said a White House memo released late Monday.

Supporters of the bill, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, say it would help modernize infrastructure, improve energy efficiency and update federal policies.

At the bill’s markup in late September, Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, admitted it had been “difficult” to find bipartisan consensus on several fronts.

“This is our first attempt at significant energy legislation since 2007, and a great deal has changed in less than a decade,” Upton said. “Fears of America running out of energy have been replaced by a once incomprehensible rise in domestic oil and natural gas production. But our laws and regulations need to be updated in order to reflect that new reality.”

The Democratic administration says the bill’s provisions regarding the operational characteristics in the electricity markets overseen by FERC are unnecessary, as grid operators are “already well positioned” to ensure that market structures in densely populated areas “adequately provide for the procurement of sufficient (energy supplies) to efficiently and reliably fulfill the resource-adequacy function that these markets are intended to perform.”

The White House also says the legislation would undermine licensing process that works to minimize negative impacts associated with new hydropower projects on safety, fish and wildlife, water quality and conservation.

Debate on the the bill is expected to begin on the House floor Tuesday.


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