Senator Lisa Murkowski. Northern Gas Pipelines file photo by Dave Harbour
Highlights Critical Role in Making Energy Cleaner, More Affordable
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing to receive testimony on opportunities to improve American energy infrastructure.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources received testimony from seven witnesses who highlighted the importance of U.S. energy systems, including the electrical grid and pipelines, to national job creation and economic prosperity, as well as the need to streamline notoriously slow and uncertain federal permitting processes.
Patrick J. McCormick III, Chief Counsel Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. Northern Gas Pipelines file photo by Dave Harbour
(Our note: Friends of Murkowski and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recognized in the video, Patrick McCormick, the Committee’s Chief Counsel.)
In her opening statement, Murkowski spoke to the central role that energy systems play in the growth and prosperity of the United States.
“Energy infrastructure is central to our way of life and our standard of living, but it is almost always an afterthought—until it breaks down,” said Murkowski. “We have seen that too often in recent years, making this a perfect time to look at our options to either rebuild, or in many cases build energy infrastructure for the first time.”
Throughout the hearing, Murkowski cited the important role the private sector plays in building and maintaining infrastructure in Alaska and the rest of the United States. When questioning the witnesses, Murkowski also highlighted the fact that projects are often held back for years due to uncertainty and delays in the federal regulatory process.
“If there has been a common thread throughout the testimony that we have heard this morning it is that the regulatory process is one that, unfortunately, can yield uncertainty, can yield delays, and that can lead to higher costs,” Murkowski said. “What barriers do you have in front of you as you work to develop a small-scale hydro facility in your community?”
Mayor of Cordova and Cordova Electric Cooperative CEO Clay Koplin said, “In general, the biggest barrier is regulatory in developing any renewable. Fortunately for us, in this case we broke down the biggest barrier by getting the site declared by FERC as non-jurisdictional, so that gives us the opportunity to, frankly, develop this as an agile project… Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing [this project]. We literally had been told by the Forest Service that it was on their land and so we had not even considered this project until we found out it was on private land.”
Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), discussed LIUNA’s support for the development of all domestic energy resources, particularly in offshore Alaska and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and highlighted how energy infrastructure projects are necessary and can be undertaken while protecting the environment.
“I appear here today to urge Congress and President Trump to reopen the key Arctic and Atlantic offshore areas recently closed off to future leasing,” said O’Sullivan. “Blocking offshore exploration destroys good jobs… LIUNA supports the responsible exploration and development of energy resources within ANWR. Opening up parts of ANWR will create jobs, generate government revenue, and increase our nation’s energy security… Adequate investment in surface transportation, water infrastructure, and domestic energy will create millions of jobs for workers across all segments of the economy… This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; it’s an American issue.”
In Murkowski’s closing remarks, she spoke to both the challenges and opportunities faced by companies looking to build energy infrastructure.
“I think it is very important, as we talk about infrastructure, to recognize the potential for job creation,” said Murkowski. “Also, some of what we heard today about the regulatory impediments to our infrastructure—we can have as many shovel-ready projects as we could possibly line up on paper, but when we meet the bureaucracy that hits and causes uncertainty and increased costs—it really does complicate the creation of energy infrastructure. We don’t want to abandon the regulations that allow for safety and good environmental considerations, but we want to allow for a process that is workable and fair.”
Last Congress, Murkowski advanced the first broad, bipartisan energy bill to pass the Senate in nearly a decade. Among other infrastructure-related provisions, the bill would have streamlined the permitting process for LNG exports, enhanced electricity delivery, and improved the regulatory process for hydropower licensing and relicensing.
Murkowski is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Archived video of today’s hearing may be found here.