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Murkowski unveils energy package with several bills targeting Alaska development

  • Author: Erica Martinson
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published May 7, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski rolled out 17 new energy bills this week as part of her push to move a major legislative package through Congress this year -- including a handful of bills focused on her home state.

Murkowski, Republican chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has the lead in crafting and moving the legislation through Congress.

Five of Murkowski's new bills are aimed at Alaska. They would boost hydropower development in Alaska, force the Bureau of Land Management to work with states in managing oil and natural gas production on state and federal lands, authorize Alaska Native corporations to establish tax-free energy assistance programs, require testing of frozen crystal methane hydrates production in the Arctic and promote "microgrid" technologies aimed at providing power to isolated communities.

"If we can steer these bills to passage, through a broad energy bill or on their own, Alaskans all across the state will benefit as a result of higher energy production and lower energy costs. These bills will help Alaska grow and prosper," she said.

The final package will have a much broader scope, though, dealing with issues of energy efficiency, energy supply and efforts to clear duplicate or problematic laws off the books. The package also covers infrastructure, including pipelines and transmission issues crucial to the Lower 48.

It is unclear so far whether she can get a major energy bill passed before lawmakers head home for the August recess. The 2016 presidential election may sway Congress away from finishing much of anything next year.

But Murkowski said she's going to try.

"I think it's been a very constructive process to date," Murkowski said told reporters Thursday, noting that some of her bills may not even make it into the final package. "I make no secret of the fact that I'm trying to build up an energy package that is broad and comprehensive and moves this country forward," she said.

Other lawmakers have introduced a similarly long list of energy bills, including new efforts to speed up federal permits for natural gas pipelines. Murkowski's committee is planning a slew of hearings over the next month to consider the bills.

Murkowski's offerings spring from long ongoing negotiations, listening sessions with "folks across all sectors," conversations with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and meetings with other lawmakers, including the energy committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Murkowski said.

Congress has not passed a major energy bill since 2007.

The government needs to think bigger -- and industry often already is, Murkowski said. While lawmakers quibble over paper cups versus styrofoam, "the energy sector is pushed every single day to make sure" that it has state-of-the-art technology when it comes to environmental controls, she said. "I think there's a lot to be proud of within the industry."

Murkowski plans to release a bill Tuesday to lift the U.S. ban on exporting crude oil, but it isn't part of the package at this time, she said.

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