The House passed its version of President Carter's emergency natural gas bill yesterday, but final enactment was delayed until today by one House Senate difference.
The bill, which authorizes temporary programs of gas allocation and removal of price controls on some interstate sales of natural gas, was approved by the House 367 to 52. But it contained a price ceiling provision unlike the President's bill which the Senate had approved on Monday 91 to 2. The administration preferred the Senate version.
Last night a House-Senate conference deleted the House amendment and the final bill is expected to be approved by both houses today in time for President Carter to annouce the action on his fireside chat to the nation tonight.
The bill was not offered as a solution to the energy problem, but as an emergency short-term effort to furnish enough gas to areas of shortage to keep homes and hospitals warm for the rest of the winter. The president has said he will sent a comprehensive energy program to Congress in April.
Once the bill is enacted, the President would be empower to declare an energy emergency, and could then put the programs into action.
The president could order interstate pipeline companies to divert gas from areas of surplus to areas suffering shortages. This program would continue until April 30 when the cold weather should be over.
Carter could also authorize the interstate pipeline companies, now subject to federal price controls that permit them to pay no more than $1.42 per thousand cubic feet for natural gas, to buy gas in the producing southern states for whatever price they have to pay to bring needed gas north.
Interstate gas, consumed in the state where it is produced, is not subject to federal price controls and is selling at $2 or more per thousand cubic feet depending on where it is produced. This program would continue until the end of July to help interstate pipelines to fill up their reservoir for next winter.
If there is gas available in the North to be diverted to the middle Atlantic states and other areas of critical shortage, it could be move immediately. But gas moves through a pipeline at only about 15 miles per hour.
Gas brought from southern producers at uncontrolled prices could be shipped north only as fast as contracts could be negotiated, and the gas moved. It would take several days to move it through a pipeline from Texas to Ohio.
The House took up the bill under a procedure that forbade amendments, limited debate to 40 minutes and required a two-thirds vote to pass. There was no opportunity to strike the limited price control amendment added in committee by Rep. Bob Eckhardt (D-Tex.) which the administration preferred out of the bill.
The Eckhardt amendment set a price ceiling that pipeline companies could pay for gas at 15 per cent higher than the second quarter of 1976 intrastate price of the gas they were bidding for. He argued that this would prevent producers from raising prices out of slight and depriving producer states. Eckhardt's amendment permitted the President to waive the ceiling, but administration spokesman said it limited flexibility.
Frank Moore, Carter's chief of liaison with Congress, was on the House side of the Capitol yesterday saying the administration could live with the [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
Rep. Clarence J. Brown (R-Ohio), the ators said the word they were still getting was that administration preferred the Senate bill.
During the brief House debate, proponents of permanent deregulation of gas prices as the only way to induce production of adequate supply, said yesterday's bill was virtually useless.
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich), floor manager of the House bill, told the House the bill would "assure that high priority needs are met." An apponent of permanent price deregualtion, Dingell gave assurances that this issue will be considered by his energy subcomittee when it acts on the President's comprehensive energy proposals in the spring. House Republicans chief specialist on energy, favors permanent deregulation and said yesterday's bill would do little good. It would not help industry which has been hard hit in Ohio. But Brown supported the bill and urged his colleagues to do likewise and "pray to God for an early spring."