Congress returned this month for the second session of the 115th Congress, with an agenda for the year that includes concluding work on Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations. Other priorities include moving the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bills, the annual defense authorization bill, several education-related efforts, reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, a Farm Bill, General Services Administration procurement reform, health care, immigration, an infrastructure package, a number of telecommunications bills, trade policy, and of course – energy.
ML Strategies’ congressional calendar for 2018 can be found here.
Last year, the Energy and Natural Resources Act (ENRA) (S. 1460) was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), skipping the committee process. Its direct placement on the Senate legislative calendar led many to believe that it would see swift passage. The bill includes titles on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s access, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy. Senate ENR staff had hoped that the bill would see floor time, and passage, by the end of 2017, but that did not happen, leaving it for consideration in 2018. Whether or not the bill sees floor time during this election year is unclear, particularly as Chairman Murkowski has already secured one of her top priorities in the tax reform bill – opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to energy exploration. However, both Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell continue to say they expect to see the bill move early in 2018.
In late December, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Tax Extenders Act of 2017 (S. 2256), which would extend a number of energy-related tax credits, among others, many of which expired at the end of 2016. Covered by the bill are tax credits for renewable energy, alternative fuels, and nuclear energy. With efforts to include the extenders in the tax reform bill last year having failed, there will be a push to address them separately in 2018, although this is an issue that has simmered for several years, so it is not clear how successful this latest effort will be.
The Senate ENR Committee will hold a hearing on January 25th to examine the performance of the electric power system under certain weather conditions. On January 25th, the committee will hold a field hearing at the Washington Auto Show to examine opportunities and challenges facing vehicle technologies, especially energy-relevant technologies.
In the House of Representatives, the Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand (SECURE) American Energy Act (H.R. 4239), introduced by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), and Vicente González (D-TX), was marked up and reported favorably by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last November. The bill would overhaul federal lands energy policy to promote expanded exploration, development, and production of oil, gas, and wind resources. Look for the full House to take up the measure in the near future.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee is also working to reform the Energy Star program with the Energy Star Reform Act of 2017 and to reform the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA), which is also addressed in S.1460. We anticipate that the draft EPCA reform bill will be released by the end of January or in early February with a hearing expected two to three weeks later.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) has introduced the Hospital Energy Conservation Act (H.R. 4788), which directs the Department of Energy to establish a pilot program to award grants and loan guarantees to no more than six hospitals during FY2019-FY2020 to carry out energy conservation projects for: (1) significantly improving energy efficiency; and (2) encouraging on-site power generation and energy storage, capable of operating independently of the grid, and providing sufficient on-site emergency backup power for essential hospital functions.
As we start a new year, look for the Trump administration to continue deregulatory efforts across the board, including in the energy sector as evidenced by the recent action to open much of the U.S. continental shelf waters to offshore energy exploration.
President Trump is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Union address on January 30th.
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