Energy Update (November 18)
Brouillette Nomination Hearing
On Thursday (Nov. 14), Dan Brouilltte, the nominee to succeed outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, sat before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for questioning. Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said that it was her intention to move Brouillette through the nomination process as fast as possible. Brouilltte was previously confirmed by the Senate as deputy secretary in 2017. During the hearing, Brouillette pledged to fight for Department of Energy (DOE) research and development program funding. Last year, the Trump administration proposed cutting some DOE research programs by more than 50 percent. Brouillette also said that grid resilience would be a priority under his leadership. “Until we get to a point where battery storage is grid-scale, and that will enable the adoption of more renewable energy, we must have base-load power all throughout the country,” Brouillette said. “That will continue to be a priority for us at the department.” After the hearing, Brouillette told reporters that if he is confirmed, DOE could take action to keep coal, nuclear, and oil fired plants open. To do this, DOE would evaluate which plants are critical for grid operations through the development of its North American Energy Resilience Model. Speaking on impeachment, Brouillette said he had not been involved in any conversations related to the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump. He said his role in the department is to run the day to day operations, and that his participation on international issues has been of a “technical nature.” Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) voiced his support for Brouillette’s nomination, likely leading to Brouillette’s swift confirmation by the committee.
Democrats are planning to release a green energy tax package as soon as next week. The discussion draft will be used as a way to seek input from the industries that could be impacted. Democrats are hoping the comprehensive incentive package will encourage the use of clean and renewable energy. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said that the bill will be “all encompassing,” and “carefully integrated.” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) said the package will include extensions for wind and solar tax credits, an expanded electric vehicle tax credit, and production credits for clean energy. Currently, the per vehicle incentive for plug-in electric cars is $7,500. Under current law, this incentive will phase down once a manufacturer sells 200,000 vehicles. Kildee is sponsoring legislation that would allow an additional 400,000 vehicles per manufacturer to be eligible for a credit up to $7,000. This bill comes as the House and Senate are amid talks about extending the lapsed breaks that include efficiency and biofuel incentives. Chairman Neal said there would be the opportunity to combine elements of different proposals.
Whitehouse Criticizes Offshore Wind Project
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has long been a top climate hawk in the Senate. But recently, he has emerged as a critic of Vineyard Wind, an offshore wind energy project proposed in federal waters. In his criticism, Whitehouse said that Vineyard Wind has failed to adequately consult fisherman. He also questioned the federal government’s review of the project, which is the first large-scale development of its kind in the U.S.. Whitehouse cited the Block Island wind farm, a five-turbine project by Rhode Island-based company Deepwater Wind, as an example of how wind developers should approach concerns. Environmental activists and organizations said they are discouraged by Whitehouse’s position. Brad Cambell, President of the Conservation Law Foundation, said Whitehouse has been more focused on “sniping than solutions” and “Climate leaders need to be using their influence to help resolve these challenges rather than making broad-brushed criticisms that play to the interests of renewable energy opponents and climate deniers.” In Massachusetts, the Vineyard Wind project is key to reducing carbon emissions. According to the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, it is mandated that MA reduce CO2 by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Whitehouse’s criticism of the offshore wind project highlights the challenges that occur for large scale emission reductions projects. Offshore wind is crucial for Eastern states to reduce pollution from power plants.
Opposition to Fracking Ban
Republicans are responding to Democratic presidential candidate’s criticisms of hydraulic fracturing. Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced S. Res. 411 in response to presidential hopefuls, such as Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT), rhetoric around energy, . Warren and Sanders have talked about banning fracking on the campaign trail, and have made it a central tenet of their climate plans. The resolution would reaffirm the current framework for oversight of the fracking industry, which leaves a majority of regulation on private and state lands. The Senate resolution followed a similar resolution that was introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) in the House. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also came out in opposition to the Democratic presidential candidate’s statements on fracking. “That would probably not be a good thing for the economy,” the Fed Chairman told senators Wednesday at a hearing of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee. Powell said it would damage the economy, and likened the country’s drilling boom to a “miracle.” Democrats have become increasingly hostile to fossil fuel development in recent years. Federal action addressing climate change remains a top priority for many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Bipartisan Senate Bill on Regional Climate Efforts
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced legislation Thursday (Nov. 14) that would create an Office of Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This office would provide analysis and technical assistance for new and existing regional climate efforts. The legislation aims to boost regional climate efforts nationally, similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The bill’s sponsors are all from eastern states, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is the sole GOP supporter. “There is no doubt that climate change poses a significant threat to our economy and our natural resources, including Maine’s forestry, fishing, agricultural, tourism, and recreation industries,” Collins said in a statement. Collins has a more moderate environmental record than most Senate Republicans.
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 Koss, Geof. “Bipartisan Senate bill would boost regional efforts.” E&E Daily, 15 Nov. 2019. https://www.eenews.net/eedaily/2019/11/15/stories/1061551651