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Upton’s Opening Remarks at Subcommittee Markup of Energy Bills

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Washington, January 9, 2020 | Josh Paciorek (202-225-3761) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Energy Subcommittee Republican Leader Fred Upton (R-MI) delivered the following opening remarks today at a markup to consider a number of energy bills:

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

“Today’s markup will cover nine bills. Several of these create new government spending programs within the Department of Energy, while others would reauthorize and expand programs that Congress has allowed to expire and for which the Administration is no longer requesting funds.  

Unfortunately, none of these bills have gone through the regular order process whereby Members of this Committee have had the opportunity to receive testimony from DOE to establish the need for legislation and make necessary improvements. What is the rush? Our usual practice in this Committee is to hold a legislative hearing with the Administration before marking up a bill, but that has not happened.      

Many of these bills appear to have originated with the Majority’s LIFT Act, which only received one cursory hearing back in May, and not a single agency witness, despite our requests. Given the expansive scope of these bills, and the tens of billions of dollars they authorize, we owe it to the American people to do a better job building the record to justify spending the taxpayers’ hard-earned money. We should also examine how these bills interact with existing laws and State government programs since they may in fact do more harm than good.     

A few of these bills actually do reflect close, bi-partisan work—which is a hallmark of this Subcommittee and full Committee. The Kinzinger-Welch “Energy Savings Through Public-Private Partnerships Act,” for example, especially reflects this practice. We moved this bill through Committee in prior Congresses, and we made a few tweaks to improve it after hearing from the agencies and stakeholders. The Olson-Doyle “Timely Review of Infrastructure Act” is another good example where we heard from FERC about the challenges it faces recruiting and retaining qualified personnel to perform its permitting responsibilities in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.  This bill hits the mark, allowing FERC to increase compensation for certain employees, and I look forward to supporting it.  

Unfortunately, some of the other bills are simply throwing money at a problem rather than addressing the core issues.  We can all agree with the goal to modernize the electric grid and replace leaky gas pipelines; however, creating a new government grant program to benefit just a few utilities will not solve anything.  Worse yet, it is likely to interfere with the existing State public utility rate-making programs and it may disincentive utilities from making investments on their systems with their own money.  

Mr. Chairman, we continually hear about permitting challenges, so why aren’t we addressing those in these bills?  When are we going to return to Pipeline Safety Reauthorization? PHMSA’s authorization expired in October and the clock is ticking away.    

When it comes to gas distribution systems, we know that 43 States and Washington D.C. already have accelerated pipe replacement programs, so we have to be especially careful not to hinder the replacement of aging pipelines in these states. 

I am proud to say that the utilities in my home state of Michigan are spending billions of dollars to replace thousands of additional miles of bare steel and gas distribution networks, and they are working hand-in-hand with our State regulators to make sure it will not cause a spike in our utility bills. 

Rather than rushing ahead to a Full Committee Markup, I hope our State public utility commissions and the Department of Energy will have an opportunity to present their views on these bills so we can make the necessary improvements.  We still have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to working with our colleagues across the aisle on amendments.  

If the goal to get these bills signed into law, then we need a serious bipartisan effort.  

Thank you.  With that, I yield back the balance of my time.”

 

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