Republicans Offer Goodies To Dems Who Vote For More Natural Gas Exports

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Senate Republicans are pushing a bill to speed up the approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals and modernize the electrical grid, but GOP lawmakers have to offer concessions to get enough Democratic support.

Republican lawmakers took to the Senate floor Wednesday night to push the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, which was introduced by Alaska Republican Sen. [crscore]Lisa Murkowski[/crscore] and Washington Democratic Sen. [crscore]Maria Cantwell[/crscore]. Republicans have largely supported the bill, but had to find ways for Democrats to back the bill.

“We gathered all the perspectives we could about what Congress should do – and what Congress needs to do – to ensure that federal policies catch up with years of change in energy markets and energy technologies,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor Wednesday, adding the bill passed the energy committee with bipartisan support.

“Now, this is not the bill I would have written on my own,” Murkowski said. “It is not the bill Senator Cantwell would have written on her own, or the bill that any other member would have written on his or her own. But it is the bill that we wrote together. As a committee. As a team.”

The main attraction for Republicans is a provision to streamline the approval process for LNG export terminals and pipelines. For years, the GOP has pushed for more LNG exports to support the U.S. energy boom and wean America’s allies in Europe off Russian gas.

Democrats in energy producing states, like New Mexico, have backed increased LNG exports. They, however, are at odds with colleagues who take energy policy cues from environmental groups who oppose gas exports because of global warming and fears over hydraulic fracturing.

“I think one of the good ideas in this bill is a provision to speed up permitting for exportation of liquefied natural gas,” Wyoming Republican Sen. [crscore]John Barrasso[/crscore] said on the Senate floor. “That’s because senators from both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of natural gas to our economy, as well as to our national security.”

For Democrats, Murkowski’s energy bill promotes hydropower — a big deal for Cantwell’s home state of Washington which gets most of its power from hydroelectric dams. The bill also has provisions for energy efficiency buildings, like schools and those that house nonprofits.

The biggest potential win for Democrats is probably the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Democrats have been pushing for months to reauthorize the fund, which gives states funds to buy up land they want to save for conservation.

Despite the bipartisan nature of the bill, there are worries it could be derailed by partisan amendments aimed at fighting global warming or curbing federal environmental regulations.

Republicans have vowed amendments to block President Barack Obama’s ban on new coal leases on federal lands, while Democrats want amendments to do more to fight global warming and address the water crisis in Flint.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for example, proposed an amendment to set up a loan program to get poor communities to buy solar power. That amendment was voted down.

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