US Senate votes to hammer out deal with House on energy bill

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Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the chairman of the Senate energy committee.

Bill will modernize power grid, speed permitting of LNG exports, increase R&D funding for energy efficiency and batteries

The U.S. Senate will be working on a compromise with the House of Representatives on what could become the broadest energy legislation passed by Congress in nearly a decade.

The Senate voted 84 to 3 to go to formal conference with the House on on the legislation. Congress is slated to begin summer recess on Friday and the conference is expected to work on the compromise energy legislation after returning in September.

“This vote is a critical milestone that will allow Congress to begin the first conference on major energy legislation in more than a decade,” Senator Lisa Murkowski, the chairman of the Senate energy committee, said about the conference process, shortly before the measure passed. Before becoming a law, an agreement worked out in conference would have to be passed by both chambers and signed by President Barack Obama.

“While we have differences to resolve, I am confident we are up to the task. Our bicameral negotiations will begin immediately so that a good final bill can be signed into law this year.”

“This bill could help continue this U.S. energy renaissance by strengthening our nation’s energy infrastructure, ensuring that American natural gas has a dominant place on the world market, and putting in place a 21st century workforce,” said Louis Finkel, executive vice president for government affairs, American Petroleum Institute.

“It’s estimated that almost a million jobs could be created by 2020 if our nation’s current renaissance continues.”

Senators who will work with House lawmakers on a deal in conference include Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and Texas Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber.

The Senate energy bill passed in April, while the House energy bill passed last year.

Lawmakers in the House have removed items such as limits on energy efficiency that the White House has said Obama would veto.

Among items to be worked out between the two chambers will be the speed of LNG export permitting process. The Senate version of the bill limits federal reviews to 45 days while the House version limits them to 30 days.

Environmental group the League of Conservation Voters welcomed progress on the debate on energy efficiency but warned that some of the potential measures to be discussed in conference “will not amount to the true overhaul our energy sector needs.”

With files from Reuters.

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