Senate Panel Advances Energy Bill

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Governors, mayors and local officials would have little chance to block construction of a liquefied natural gas facility under an energy bill (search) that advanced Thursday from a Senate committee.

A provision in the bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (search) exclusive jurisdiction over final approval of such a terminal. A dozen or more such facilities probably will be built in the next decade.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced the nontax portion of the energy legislation by a 21-1 vote.

Several lawmakers said contentious issues such as the siting of those terminals would have to be settled by the full Senate.

Among the items in the legislation are measures that would promote energy production and conservation. They include:

--a requirement to double ethanol (search) use in gasoline.

--new rules to ensure the reliability of the nation's electricity grid.

--loan guarantees for new, innovative energy technologies such as clean coal gasification plants and new generation nuclear reactors.

The House's energy bill passed this month has a similar proposal about the siting of liquefied natural gas facilities.

Separately, the Senate Finance Committee was continuing work on $11 billion worth of energy tax incentives that will be incorporated into the legislation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would try to soften the provision so states have some voice in where such plants are built.

Four import terminals are in operation. Proposals for 40 mores have come forward, although many may never go ahead. Several proposed projects, including ones in California and Massachusetts, have attracted strong local opposition because of concerns the facilities — or the ships carrying the gas — might become targets of terrorists.

The Senate committee chairman, GOP Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, sought a bill with bipartisan support. He sent the measure to the full Senate without addressing some of the most contentious energy issues facing lawmakers: proposed oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge and liability protection for makers a gasoline additive that contaminates drinking water.

The House supported those provisions.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., won approval for an inventory of Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas reserves. This plan is similar to one the Senate approved in energy legislation two years ago.

Opponents of such an inventory argued that it represented a "slippery slope" toward drilling in offshore areas long under a freeze on drilling.