The U.S. House of Representatives today passed by two votes a bill that establishes a two-year time limit for the use of federal loan guarantees in building the proposed $20 billion Alaska natural gas pipeline.
The measure was included by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, in a broader piece of legislation that barely won approval in a 212-210 vote even though it cleared the way for U.S. oil refineries to expand.
Faced with an American public clamoring for relief from climbing energy prices, the much sought-after Gasoline for America’s Security Act of 2005 was expected to fare well on the floor of the House, especially after Republicans dropped a White House-backed provision that would have eased clean air restrictions to help refineries and coal-powered utilities.
Instead, Republicans barely won the day in a tense roll call that lasted more than 40 minutes — far beyond the allotted five minutes.
The sunset on pipeline loan guarantees, Section 204 of the bill, is aimed at expediting development and construction of the 4.5 billion cubic foot per day Alaska gas line. Specifically, it precludes the U.S. Secretary of Energy from entering any agreement to provide the loan guarantees under the Alaska Stranded Gas Development Act after the end of 24 months from enactment of the new legislation.
The bill also aims to add 2 million barrels per day of capacity by offering abandoned military bases for refinery construction sites.
It speeds up permits by giving the Energy Department more authority over the process, and offers federal insurance to refiners in case new projects are delayed among other provisions.