Murkowski, Manchin make case for AEIA

July 2, 2020, 2:01PMNuclear News

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), the committee’s ranking member, put their rhetorical skills to the test earlier this week as the two urged colleagues to pass the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), a comprehensive piece of energy policy legislation introduced by the bipartisan pair in late February (NN, Apr. 2020, p. 14).

Despite advancing to the floor of the Senate, the 555-page bill ultimately stalled over disagreements surrounding the addition of an amendment that that would have reduced hydrofluorocarbon use. At the time, Murkowski characterized her chamber’s inability to invoke cloture on the bill as “beyond frustrating.”

Subjects addressed in the AEIA include advanced nuclear; energy efficiency; renewable energy; energy storage; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; industrial and vehicle technologies; the Department of Energy; mineral security; cyber and grid security and modernization; and workforce development.

What they said: "It would be a mistake—it would be a significant mistake—for Congress to simply give up on energy policy for yet another year,” Murkowski said. “It would be a mistake to decide that this is just too hard, there’s not enough time left. We’ve been down that road before. Ladies and gentlemen, we are so far along in this process that we just need to keep pushing and keep moving. We’re so far along, but the thinking that would push us back to a restart, a reset, it’s just not where we want to be.”

Added Manchin: “The bill is the product of over a year of work and a robust process, both in the Energy Committee and also on the Senate floor in early March. Thirty-nine of the 53 base bills are bipartisan—which you don’t hear very often—and 72 senators have either sponsored or cosponsored language included in the package. Seventy-two out of 100 senators, Democrats and Republicans, have participated in this all-in energy policy.”

In a webinar hosted June 29 by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chief Counsel Lucy Murfitt said that the AEIA could return to the Senate floor as early as this month. “I want to make sure that you understand, because I think if Senator Murkowski were on this call right now, she'd be telling you this—she is absolutely 110 percent committed to this bill,” Murfitt said. “She has not wavered at all on that. And she’s going to fight until there’s just simply no path forward left for the bill.”

Zooming in: Most of the AEIA nuclear-related provisions would amend various parts of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05). Section 1502 of the bill, for instance, would amend EPACTO5 to authorize an advanced nuclear energy research program to develop innovative technologies to improve safety functionality and affordability, while Section 1507 would amend the law to demonstrate advanced reactors with the private sector and to establish specific goals. The bill instructs the DOE to enter into agreements to complete at least two demonstration projects by 2025 and to establish a program to enter into agreements to complete one additional operational demonstration project by no later than 2035.

Among its other provisions, the bill would establish a research and development program at the DOE to analyze energy systems integration, including emissions-reducing energy resources and nuclear hybrid energy systems.

The AEIA has been endorsed by a large number of organizations, including the American Nuclear Society, the American Gas Association, the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the Electric Power Supply Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Hydropower Association, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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