VIDEO: House committee seeks cross-border transmission permitting reform

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The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on Feb. 9 released a framework for advancing several energy reform initiatives that would include creating an efficient approval process for cross-border electric transmission lines.

The committee will prepare a series of discussion drafts under its Architecture of Abundance initiative to address policies that would modernize infrastructure, develop a 21st century energy workforce, and promote energy diplomacy, efficiency and accountability, according to a Feb. 9 committee statement.

In a combined statement on Feb. 9, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said: “Our energy realities have changed dramatically – we’ve gone from bust to boom practically overnight. Today’s energy policies are lagging far behind, and are better suited for the gas lines in the 1970s than this new era of abundance. We need policies that meet today’s needs and are focused on the future, and that starts with building the Architecture of Abundance.”

The committee said it will advance the discussion drafts through the committee’s legislative process in the coming months and bring an energy package to the House floor later this year.

According to the framework, a discussion draft to modernize the transmission, reliability, and security of energy distribution will address the permitting challenges for current domestic and cross-border transmission lines and fuel pipelines.

It will also seek to protect critical energy infrastructure with improved emergency coordination and information sharing, ensure robust and transparent energy markets, and bring added levels of accountability to decision-makers.

Upton unveiled the Architecture of Abundance initiative at the Energy Information Administration 2014 Energy Conference in Washington, D.C., last July. His plan laid out several steps that the House has taken toward achieving the goals of the plan, including House passage on June 24, 2014, of H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, according to a July 2014 committee statement.

The North American Energy Infrastructure Act would consolidate and standardize the cross-border approval process for electric transmission lines and fuel pipelines by eliminating the presidential permit requirement for cross-border facilities and requiring a certificate of crossing to be issued for cross-border facilities within 120 days of completion of an environmental review. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would be responsible for issuing the certificate of crossing for electric transmission lines. In addition, the act has an effective date of July 1.

On June 26, 2014, the act was placed on the U.S. Senate Legislative Calendar No. 422 under General Orders, according to the House website. No further action was taken.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced a similar bill – S. 2823 – to the Senate last September. The Senate read the bill on Sept. 19, 2014, and referred it to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, according to the Senate website.

As part of the Architecture of Abundance framework, the Energy and Commerce Committee said it will seek to expand the U.S. energy and manufacturing workforce to include more minority and low-income communities. The discussion drafts will support opportunities for the DOE, along with the national laboratories, community colleges, and public-private partnerships, to coordinate and leverage existing resources to foster an energy and manufacturing workforce. In addition, the committee said the discussion drafts will seek to improve coordination and strengthen energy partnerships with Canada and Mexico and to establish a process to evaluate how energy permitting decisions impact international energy security.

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