What has happened since President Trump was inaugurated?
- In one of his first executive actions, President Trump has placed a freeze on new government hires (excepting the military). Based on information from Trump transition staff this is just the first step in efforts to reduce the size of the U.S. government.
- President Trump also signed executive orders to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects. He called for American steel to be used for the pipelines.
- As part of his infrastructure agenda, Trump signed an executive order to speed the environmental review and approval of high-priority infrastructure projects. In order to fund tax and infrastructure activities, the Trump Administration is expected to seek a 10+% reduction in the federal workforce and a 10+ percent federal spending.
- During a top to bottom review of federal programs, the following type of questions will be asked:
- Is this something the federal government needs to be doing?
- Does this program benefit job creation and increase exports?
- In another one of his first executive actions, President Trump has signed a memorandum withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Actions on the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Accord are also expected to be a priority, although these will be more difficult to accomplish through purely executive action. Right now, the administration is evaluating its legal options, particularly for the CPP as legal action may provide a quicker alternative than the traditional rulemaking process.
- The White House web site includes an “America First Energy Plan” which lays out goals to reverse Obama Administration policies on global warming, while bolstering domestic sources of energy including oil, gas and coal. Nuclear power is not mentioned in the plan.
What is going on at DOE?
- Governor Rick Perry’s nomination hearing went as well as could be expected, and it is anticipated that his confirmation could occur soon.
- Secretary-designee Perry admitted it was a mistake to propose abolishing DOE, that he is now familiar with its science, nuclear weapons and environmental cleanup missions among others, and that he will be ready to support them going forward as Secretary.
- While pressed on his Yucca Mountain position, Perry said that he was assessing alternative options, but that he wasn’t ruling anything out, including Yucca.
- Perry discussed his expertise in wind generation, with Texas being the largest U.S. supplier (19,000 Mw), radioactive waste disposal (Waste Control Specialists) and nuclear weapons (Pantex site).
- Beginning last Friday, a “Beach Team” of approximately 28 individuals has “landed” at DOE to assist in the turnover of power and serve as interim staff until more permanent individuals are nominated and confirmed to take those positions.
- One area of focus for the Trump Administration will be the review of subsidies for renewables as this was a topic of Perry’s nomination hearings. Look for this to be an area of focus for the Beach Team and early DOE action.
- The first order of business for Perry after his expected confirmation is to firm up with the White House who will serve as his Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary of the Department.
- It is expected that the Chief of Staff will be an individual familiar to Secretary-Designee Perry with roots in Texas. It is rumored that Dan Wilmont, who served Perry while he was Governor in the Texas State Office in Washington, could be tapped to take the Deputy Chief of Staff slot.
- The Deputy Secretary slot is down to three individuals, but the leading candidate is said to be a familiar face to Perry and also knowledgeable with Washington, DOE and Texas.
- On January 26, the president named Kristine Svinicki, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to chair the NRC.
- On the cybersecurity front, Secretary Perry will be tasked with playing a major role in cybersecurity, at least under current policies. There is some concern that the incoming Administration would like to give DOD more authority on cyber. There is an interest in continuing to keep existing channels open (at least in electricity) between industry, DOE and DHS.
What is going on at FERC?
- There have been major changes at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) since President Trump took office. The President has named Democrat Cheryl LaFleur to be the acting chairman of FERC. This move was followed by former Chairman Norman Bay’s resignation. He plans to depart FERC on February 3rd, leaving FERC with only two Democratic commissioners—acting Chairman LaFleur and Commissioner Colette Honorable whose term expires in June 2017.
- This development poses major challenges to utilities and energy companies as FERC requires a quorum of at least three members in order to issue orders and regulations. The lack of a quorum will impact pending approvals of gas pipeline projects or settlements of investigations.