- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - From boosting solar and wind power to encouraging greater efficiency in new buildings, a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday makes extensive changes to U.S. energy policy. The bill is the first far-reaching energy bill approved by the Senate since 2007.

It would:

- Boost renewables such as solar and wind power, as well as natural gas, hydropower and geothermal energy.

- Encourage so-called clean coal technology, including projects to capture carbon dioxide generated by coal-fired power plants.

- Speed up federal review of projects to export liquefied natural gas to Europe and Asia, requiring the Energy Department to make final decisions within 45 days after earlier reviews are completed.

- Update building codes to increase efficiency

- Modernize the electric grid, including strengthening safety standards to increase reliability and allowing smaller, micro-grids in rural areas

- Reauthorize the half-billion dollar Land and Water Conservation Fund that protects parks, public lands and water resources, historic sites and battlefields.

- Require federal buildings to meet efficiency standards set by President Barack Obama, with a goal of 25 percent reduction in energy use over the next decade.

- Establish a National Park Centennial Challenge Fund that would require spending up to $17.5 million a year to match private donations to preserve and improve national park sites across the country.

- Establish a $150 million maintenance and revitalization fund to address high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service. Money would not be used to acquire new park land.

- Allow the energy secretary to sell crude oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve based on market prices, rather than strictly as required for energy security. Senators said selling oil when prices are high could earn taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

- Increase collaboration by the Energy Department with private industry and universities to develop advanced nuclear technologies, including testing and demonstration of reactor concepts.

The bill must be reconciled with a House-passed version that boosts fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. Obama has threatened to veto the House measure.

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