Modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure has been a focal point of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 115th Congress. Americans deserve safe, secure and efficient energy that meets the needs of the 21st century economy.
For too long, the promises of modernized energy infrastructure were held back by a Washington-centric regulatory and environmental agenda. We’ve taken steps here at the committee to address these issues and have been working on implementing a forward-thinking, pro-domestic energy agenda that improves our energy infrastructure while creating jobs and putting consumers first.
In the Energy Subcommittee, where I serve as Chairman, we heard from a variety of stakeholders in both the public and private sector in a series of hearings focused on identifying problems with modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure while also focusing on solutions. We discovered that the federal government was often an impediment on economic growth, innovation and jobs. Multiyear permitting delays for oil and gas pipelines, hydropower facilities and transmission lines had become the norm.
Our efforts to explore these issues and identify solutions have not been in vain. In fact, we’ve passed numerous bills out of the committee, and the House of Representatives has passed several of the measures.
For over a century, hydropower has provided electricity to millions of Americans across the nation. It’s clean, it’s affordable, and it’s reliable. Today, it is responsible for providing nearly 7 percent of the nation’s total energy needs and, with technological advancements and smarter regulations, that number could grow exponentially. To date, the House of Representatives has passed several bills that promote hydropower expansion, and in June the committee passed H.R. 3043, the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017, which would modernize federal policies by designating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for licensing hydropower projects.
The approval process for oil and natural gas pipelines often fell victim to political grandstanding by the previous administration. With the information gathered in our hearings, we acted and the House of Representatives passed two Energy and Commerce bills that modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure through targeted reforms to the federal government’s permitting and siting policies for oil and gas pipelines. H.R. 2883, the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, establishes a predictable and transparent process to permit the construction of cross-border pipelines and electric transmission facilities. H.R. 2910, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines, promotes better coordination among FERC and other agencies involved in siting interstate natural gas pipelines. Coupled together, these important bipartisan bills promote our energy infrastructure, strengthen our economy, create jobs and increase our energy security.
The nation’s rapidly transforming energy landscape, coupled with technological innovation, has changed the way in which electricity is generated, delivered and consumed. Hydropower and natural gas are going to play an increasingly more important role in electricity generation across the country. In fact, natural gas now accounts for nearly 34 percent of the nation’s electricity generation. Because of this, the subcommittee has also explored the state of America’s evolving energy infrastructure and barriers to innovation, modernization, further job creation and economic growth. We’ve recently launched the “Powering America” hearing series, which seeks to provide our members the opportunity to explore electricity markets and learn more about electricity generation, distribution and consumption. We have been proactively engaged with all stakeholders in a meaningful discussion on how we can strengthen our grid and provide greater value to American consumers, both now and in the future.
Despite our successes this Congress, our work is not over. We will continue to work on forward-thinking solutions that promote our energy infrastructure, create jobs, ensure grid reliability and resiliency, all while keeping what’s best for the consumer in mind.
• Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, is Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy.