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Upton Sees a Place for Energy in Possible Infrastructure Bill

Michigan Republican optimistic about energy provisions

Rep. Fred Upton thinks energy provisions could live in an infrastructure package. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Fred Upton thinks energy provisions could live in an infrastructure package. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Republican chairman of a House energy subcommittee says he wants a widely discussed infrastructure package this session to contain a section on energy issues.

That energy title, said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., would “focus on protecting the actual infrastructure of the electric grid” and “get into the weeds a little bit on cybersecurity and some other things.”

Upton, House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee chairman, made the comments to the Center on Global Energy Policy for Columbia University’s Columbia Energy Exchange Podcast. The episode was released Monday.

“The president has talked a lot about an infrastructure bill, and frankly it’s an area where I’m convinced there is bipartisan agreement,” said Upton, who served as chairman of the full committee until this current session of Congress.

Such an energy title could contain resources for the federal government to protect the energy grid and nuclear plants from cyberattacks, Upton said.

Beyond the infrastructure bill, Upton mentioned other projects in the committee’s pipeline.

“I would see probably very likely a DOE reauthorization bill probably emerging late summer early fall — working with the administration, looking at the different budget concerns that they have and streamlining, maybe, some functions that are there.”

The Trump administration has proposed a 5.6 percent cut to the overall Energy Department budget. Upton said there is no draft bill yet from the House, but the reauthorization effort would be a top item.

The lawmaker said he was “distraught” Congress could not agree to a final energy package last session. But he said it got hung up on the natural resources language, rather than on the energy provisions. Upton said he thinks Congress will be able to work through the energy aspects again this year.

Upton said the panel might be able to move forward on the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada. With the retirement of former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who had vociferously opposed the site as a repository, Upton said, “we’ll see if we can’t work a bill to get through and go through that opposition, particularly with, now, a president that . . . would likely sign that bill into law.”

But Upton did not echo the Trump administration’s narrative that the coal industry can fully revive. While he said he supports carbon-capture technology, he said he did not see a comeback in the works for coal.

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