On The Hill

Energy Update (December 20)

Dec 20, 2020 | SHARE  
Biden-Harris Transition
This week, President-elect Joe Biden announced the following energy-related nominees and appointees:
Michael Regan, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator
  • Currently serves as North Carolina’s Secretary of Department of Environmental Quality  
Jennifer Granholm, Energy Secretary
  • Former two-term Governor of Michigan
Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary
  • Currently serves as the Representative for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District
Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor
  • Served as EPA Administrator under the Obama-Biden administration
Brenda Mallory, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair
  • Served as CEQ general counsel under the Obama-Biden administration
Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary
  • Former Mayor of South Bend, IN
Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Advisor
  • Former Office of Management and Budget and White House Domestic Policy Council official during the Obama-Biden administration
On Friday (Dec. 18), Biden announced additional members of his White House communications team. To view the list of new staff, click here.
To view a full list of nominees, appointees, and White House staff, click here.
Michael Regan, nominee for EPA Administrator, is currently North Carolina’s top environmental regulator. The EPA will be the most central agency to Biden’s climate change plans – which have called for eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from the power grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. In North Carolina, Regan helped craft a clean energy plan aimed at reducing emissions from the state’s power sector, and also negotiated a multi-billion-dollar deal with Duke Energy to clean up coal ash. Regan’s nomination is seen as a nod to the progressive wing of the Democratic party, and he will likely work closely on environmental justice issues.
Jennifer Granholm, nominee for Energy Secretary, served as Governor of Michigan for two terms, and has extensive experience in working with the auto industry. In the past, Granholm worked with then Vice President Biden on the 2009 bailout of General Motors Co and Chrysler – which included incentives for investments in car batteries. She will likely lead DOE’s push to help encourage electric vehicle (EV) production as part of Biden’s $2 trillion plan to fight climate change. The Department of Energy (DOE) operates labs that have helped develop advanced technology used in renewables, fossil fuel production, and nuclear energy, and will play an important role in Biden’s plan to reduce carbon emissions. Granholm has positioned herself as a figure who can help the Biden administration’s transition to a clean energy economy.
Deb Haaland, nominee for Interior Secretary, currently serves as the House Representative for New Mexico’s 1st District. Haaland will likely play an important role in Biden’s goal to move the federal government away from fossil fuels and increase environmental protection on public lands. If confirmed, she would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history – Haaland is a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo people. Haaland championed renewable energy legislation and spoke against fossil fuel infrastructure during her time on the House Natural Resources Committee. She has also supported policies that would put 30 percent of U.S. lands under federal protection by 2030. The Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, two environmental groups at the heart of the “Green New Deal” resolution, have called her a “fierce ally of the movement.”
Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, will lead the new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. Previously, McCarthy served as EPA Administrator in the Obama-Biden administration, and oversaw the development of various climate regulations. She has led the National Resources Defense Council since early 2020. McCarthy will likely focus on advancing climate action across the government, including at Transportation, Energy, and Interior. She will serve as the domestic counterpart to John Kerry, who has been selected as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. If Republicans keep control of the Senate, McCarthy will have to rely on executive agency actions to enact many parts of the Biden-Harris climate agenda.
Brenda Mallory, White House CEQ Chair, is a veteran environmental lawyer and currently leads the Southern Environmental Law Center’s regulatory practice. Mallory was endorsed by both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and environmental activists. CEQ has a wide scope to instruct federal agencies in how to evaluate the environmental impact of projects, policies, and land-use decisions; as well as oversees the National Environmental Policy Act. Previously, Mallory served as acting General Counsel and Principal Deputy Council at EPA.
Pete Buttigieg, nominee for Secretary of Transportation, is the former Mayor of South Bend, IN and was a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. If confirmed, Buttigieg will be responsible for 55,000 employees and an $87 billion budget. On the campaign trail, Buttigieg was the first candidate to put out an infrastructure plan – which was a detailed proposal that included a vehicle miles fee and increased road safety.
Appropriations/COVID-19 Stimulus
Friday (Dec. 18) evening, the House and Senate passed a two-day stopgap measure to keep the government open through the weekend.
Lawmakers are still working to finalize a $900 billion COVID-19 relief deal to attach to the FY 2021 $1.4 trillion government funding legislation. Various Members of Congress have expressed frustration in the lack of information around the COVID-19 relief talks, as well as what is included in the legislation being negotiated. Additionally, a push by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to curb the emergency lending authority of the Federal Reserve has caused contention within the chamber.
The new package reportedly includes a round of $600 direct payments, $325 billion in small business support, including $250 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding, and $300 per week in supplemental federal unemployment insurance benefits for at least an additional 10 weeks.
Earlier this week, the bipartisan group of senators who released the framework for a $908 billion COVID-19 package last week agreed to split up the proposal. The House and Senate lawmakers introduced two bills on Monday (Dec. 14), one that includes unemployment insurance, small-business relief, education funding, vaccine distribution, and other key priorities, and a separate bill with the issues holding up the package: state and local government funding and business liability waivers.
President Trump has indicated he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This would be the first veto override of the Trump presidency.
By law, Trump would have to veto the bill by Dec. 23. A vote in the House and Senate will be determined by how soon Trump formally rejects the legislation. House leaders are discussing bringing members back the week of Dec. 28, but no plans will be finalized until the measure is vetoed. For the Senate, the most likely scenario will be to hold the vote on Jan. 3, 2021.
Energy Package
This week, congressional negotiators reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a large-scale energy package. The legislation is focused on research and innovation incentives, and has been in the works for over two years. The timing of the compromise should allow the legislation to be attached to the must-pass fiscal 2021 spending deal.[1]
The bill will include a compromise on reducing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which postponed the Senate energy package earlier this year. The new deal will include a provision that would preempt states from issuing more stringent regulations on HFCs for five years, or for 10 years if the replacement chemicals do not emerge.
The legislation would also authorize around $35 billion in research and development spending over the next decades. This would include more than a dozen projects on energy storage, carbon capture technologies, and advanced nuclear reactors.
Additionally, the compromise deal includes increased spending authorization of the Federal Energy Management Program, as well as provisions to boost efficient energy and water use in schools and federal buildings. It also includes increased funding for DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program.
To view a discussion draft, click here.
To view a section-by-section summary, click here.
Federal Reserve
On Tuesday (Dec. 15), the Federal Reserve announced it joined the Network for Greening the Financial System, an international group of banks and financial regulators to address climate risks.
“As we develop our understanding of how best to assess the impact of climate change on the financial system, we look forward to continuing and deepening our discussions with our NGFS colleagues from around the world,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement.
President-elect Biden will likely make climate change a key issue for the Fed, Treasury Department, and other financial regulatory agencies.[2]
New Energy Legislation
On Wednesday (Dec. 16), Representatives Marc Veasey (D-TX) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced legislation to establish a federally backed low-interest loan program to build the infrastructure needed to transport captured greenhouse gas emissions.
“Carbon Capture and the associated infrastructure is essential for the United States to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century,” Veasey said in a statement.[3]
To view the legislation, click here.
This week, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced legislation that would commit $60 billion to support more than two million jobs to promote forest and watershed restoration and resilience.
According to Bennet’s office, the “Outdoor Restoration Force Act” would generate over $156 billion in economic output and provide employment opportunities.
To view the bill, click here.
On Monday (Dec. 14), a group of House Democrats including Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI), Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and Cindy Axne (D-IA) introduced a pair of bills aimed at boosting environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investing.
The bills would require investment managers to have sustainable investing policies that take into account climate risk and environmental impacts.
“This legislation allows Congress to give teeth to what industries, Wall Street and individual investors have made increasingly clear: taking environmental, social and corporate governance principles into consideration isn’t just good public relations, but is the viable, responsible, and profitable approach for America,” Boyle said in a statement.[4]
To view the Sustainable Investment Policy Act, click here.
To view the Retirees Sustainable Investment Policies Act, click here.
Climate Crisis Committee Continues
This week, House Speaker Pelosi said the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will return for the 117th Congress. Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL) will remain Chair of the panel.
“As we look toward the future, this Select Committee will continue to champion ambitious progress to protect our communities, promote justice, create good-paying jobs and safeguard our planet for generations to come,” Pelosi said in a statement.
It is unclear if the committee’s current membership will remain the same.
New Energy and Commerce Democratic Members
On Thursday (Dec. 17), the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee recommended the appointment of Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Kim Schrier (D-WA), and Lori Trahan (D-MA) to the Energy and Commerce Committee for the 117th Congress.
[1] Dillon, Jeremy & Sobczyk, Nick. “4 takeaways on clean energy, climate deal.” E&E Daily, 15 Dec. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/f85b68c6/GUwn92wBk0OOHyVn3cJ0Aw?u=https://www.eenews.net/eedaily/2020/12/15/stories/1063720703
[3] Dillon, Jeremy. “Bill looks to emulate water loan program for CO2.” E&E Daily, 17 Dec. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/3ac7031d/aOr0ux9R-Emq5lxW9y_SzQ?u=https://www.eenews.net/eedaily/2020/12/17/stories/1063720897
[4] Sobczyk, Nick. “Dem bills would promote sustainable investing.” E&E Daily, 15 Dec. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/255b717a/6FFFWJhUrkmQzjyk3AXxSQ?u=https://www.eenews.net/eedaily/2020/12/15/stories/1063720685

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