On The Hill

Energy Update (March 1)

Mar 1, 2020 | SHARE  
Bipartisan Senate Energy Package Released
On Thursday (Feb. 27), Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) released their energy bill that repackages multiple existing proposals on issues including energy efficiency, carbon capture, nuclear, and energy storage.
“What we have focused on is a recognition that the technology and the innovation that drives us in this country in the energy space can every day bring us to a better place when it comes to better emissions, smaller footprints and cleaner operations,” Murkowski said about the package.[1]
The bill would expedite approval of small exports of liquified natural gas, reauthorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy through 2025, create new programs to boost carbon capture and sequestration technologies, supports nuclear energy programs, and increases support for energy storage. Notably, the bill excluded language on strengthening national model building codes.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on S. 2657, setting up floor debate. The bill is expected to be the first order of business next week. Democrats and Republicans have not decided yet on how long debate will last, or how many amendments will get votes, but Murkowski hopes to instill a “reasonable amendment process.” Manchin said to expect about two or three by each party.
Democrats are expected to offer language related to clean energy tax incentives that were left out of the budget deal in December. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have already announced opposition to the bill, saying research needs to be invested in clean energy sources that will decarbonize the economy at a faster pace. Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) said earlier this month that plans are underway to release a package to match the Senate one.[2]
If the energy bill is enacted, it would be the second major legislative package by Murkowski and Manchin to become law.
House Natural Resources Hearing on Climate Bills
The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on H.R. 5435 the “American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solution Act,” and H.R. 5859 the “Trillion Trees Act.” on Wednesday (Feb. 26).
Representative Bruce Westermen (R-AR) has championed the “Trillion Trees Act,” which aims to sequester carbon by aligning the U.S. with an international initiative to plant trees globally. Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said his legislation addresses both sides of the problem, and argued his bill increases public lands ability to absorb carbon, while also decreasing what they emit. Grijalva’s bill would temporarily halt new fossil fuel leases on public lands and increase royalties from onshore fossil fuel extraction from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent.
Republicans on the committee expressed their support for Westerman’s bill, and often discussed Grijalva’s bill as “misguided.” Democrats on the committee said that while they don’t necessarily oppose Westerman’s legislation, they believe Grijalva’s bill addresses the problem more thoroughly, and that Republicans keep putting forth solutions that “mask” the problem of climate change.
The hearing showed Republican’s newer climate focus that carbon emissions are the problem, not necessarily fossil fuels. “The real villain is carbon in the air, not carbon itself, and I think that’s an important distinction,” Representative John Curtis (R-UT) said at the hearing. “I think forest management and planting trees alone will not stop climate change, but it is certainly part of a solution.”[3]
Atlantic Coast Pipeline
On Monday (Feb. 24), the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a highly controversial battle over a permit for a project to pass under the Appalachian Trail. Several justices appeared wary of blocking the pipeline, noting the decision could bar any other developments passing under or over trails administered by the National Park Service.
Many of the justices were worried that the Park Service could block any type of infrastructure projects and manage land miles underground. This concern crossed the ideological spectrum, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the environmental group’s argument has “enormous implications.”
“We are confident that the law and facts are on our side,” Dominion Energy Inc. spokeswoman Ann Nallo said. The final determination in Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC v. Cowpasture River Presentation will be unknown until the Supreme Court issues its opinion in the coming months.[4]
Brouillette & Wheeler on Capitol Hill
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change on Thursday (Feb. 27). House Democrats questioned Wheeler on the Trump administration’s climate record and proposed cuts to EPA’s funding. Wheeler argued the EPA is doing everything it can to reduce global warming, and said the agency’s actions speak louder than words, citing EPA’s proposals to decrease CO2 emissions from the electric industry and require energy efficiency gains from the auto industry. “We take climate change seriously. We are implementing the laws Congress has given us,” Wheeler said. “Congress has not passed any new additional laws to address climate change.” [5]
Additionally, DOE Administrator Dan Brouillette appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy-Water on Thursday. Brouillette faced questions about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, and told lawmakers the department has not started evaluating alternatives. Regarding renewables, Brouillette said DOE is committed to developing large-scale battery storage, and said, “That allows people to move even further, perhaps even to one day where we achieve a goal of 100% renewables.” Brouillette also noted the Trump administration believes in energy diversity, and said it is critical to energy security and national security.[6]
[1] Adragna, Anthony. “Senate to consider bipartisan Murkowski-Manchin energy package.” Politico Pro, 27 Feb. 2020. https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/02/senate-to-consider-bipartisan-murkowski-manchin-energy-package-1885421
[2] Dillon, Jeremy & Koss, Geof. “Angst over tax extenders may spill into energy floor debate.” E&E Daily, 28 Feb. 2020. https://www.eenews.net/eedaily/2020/02/28/stories/1062467229
[3] Sobczyk, Nick. “GOP’s ‘Trillion Trees’ plan meets Democratic opposition” E&E Daily, 27 Feb. 2020. https://www.eenews.net/eedaily/2020/02/27/stories/1062458535
[4] Farah, Niina. “Dominion ‘confident’ its pipeline will cross iconic trail.” Energywire, 25 Feb. 2020. https://www.eenews.net/energywire/stories/1062441339/search?keyword=Atlantic+coast+pipeline
[5] Hiar, Corbin. “Wheeler defends climate record in Hill budget clash.” Greenwire, 27 Feb. 2020. https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/stories/1062464145/search?keyword=wheeler
[6] Clark, Lesley. “Brouillette: 100% renewables may be possible.” E&E News, 28 Feb. 2020. https://www.eenews.net/energywire/stories/1062466801/search?keyword=brouillette


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