This evening the House Rules Committee met to craft the rule for the Consideration of HR 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. The version of the bill being considered includes the original bill, amendments adopted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, modified versions of HR 2295 (as a new §1111) and HR 2358 (as a new §1112), along with some technical amendments proposed by Rep. Upton (R,MI). The rule for HR 8 adopted this evening only covers the initial 1 hour of general discussion of the bill, not any amendment process on the House Floor.
A total of 94 proposed amendments to HR 8 were submitted to the Rules Committee. If a restrictive rule for the amendment process is adopted, it is likely that only selected amendments from this list would be considered on the House floor. It is not clear from tonight’s Committee actions that a restricted rule will be adopted at a future hearing.
Of those amendments there are only six that may be of specific interest to readers of this blog. They are:
#19 Norcross (D,NJ) – Directs the Secretary of Energy to study weaknesses in the security architecture of certain smart meters currently available, and promulgate regulations to mitigate those weaknesses.
#21 Norcross – Allows the Secretary of Energy to address prospective grid security emergencies proactively.
#34 DeSaulnier (D,CA), Lowey (D,NY) – Requires the Department of Energy to study the maximum level of volatility that is consistent with the safest practicable shipment of crude oil.
#84 Jackson-Lee (D,TX) – Directs the Secretary of Energy to submit to the Committees on Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate a report on methods to increase electric grid resilience with respect to all threats, including cyber attacks, vandalism, terrorism, and severe weather, no later than 120 days after the date of enactment of the Act.
#92 Garamendi (D,CA) – Sets the maximum volatility threshold for crude oil transported by rail at 8.5 psi until a national standard is established.
#93 Franks (R,AZ) – Secures the most critical components of America's electrical infrastructure against the threat posed by a potentially catastrophic electromagnetic pulse.
The initial consideration of HR 8 under the rule approved this evening will probably start tomorrow. Based upon the way the House dealt with HR 22 earlier this month it is very possible that there will not be any more work by the Rules Committee on HR 8 and that all 94 amendments submitted to date will be allowed to be introduced on the House floor. There is a minor chance that there will be an open amendment process on this bill that would consider any offered amendments.
The two crude oil volatility amendments (#34 and #92) of those listed above are the only ones that have any significant controversy associated with them. I would expect that all of the others could pass in floor votes. Since #34 would effectively only require a study and report to Congress, I think that it could pass. The Garamendi amendment will certainly be opposed vigorously by the oil industry and that limits it chance of passing.
The Garamendi amendment is very similar in intent to HR 2379.
I did a somewhat detailed explanation of the shortcomings of the use of Reid Vapor Pressure measurement in my discussion of HR 1679. Garamendi continues to try to use this method even though it is ill suited to the differentiation of crude oil flammability or explosiveness. This is a fairly typical case of a politician not understanding the technical details of what he is attempting to legislate. The DeSaulnier amendment, on the other hand, requires the Secretary of Transportation to study and set a volatility standard for crude oil; leaving the technical details to the professionals.