• Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced plans on June 27, 2013 to move forward with legislation to comprehensively reform the tax code. Their plan envisions a “clean slate” approach that starts by eliminating all tax expenditures and adding back only those provisions with merit. Tax expenditures describe the universe of credits, deductions, exclusions, preferential rates and other adjustments to the tax code enacted by Congress over the years. The production tax credit and at least 25 other tax provisions are aimed at the energy sector, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. All could be curtailed or eliminated entirely under the Baucus/Hatch plan. “[W]e plan to operate from an assumption that all special provisions are out unless there is clear evidence that they: (1) help grow the economy, (2) make the tax code fairer, or (3) effectively promote other important policy objectives,” Senators Baucus and Hatch said in a letter to colleagues. They also asked Senators to submit recommendations for preserving any tax expenditures to them by July 26, 2103. “We will give special attention to proposals that are bipartisan,” they say.
  • On June 27, 2013, President Obama sent to the Senate the nomination of Ron Binz to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as Chairman for a five-year term. Binz, a former Colorado Public Utilities Commission Chairman, has a record of supporting clean and renewable energy sources, which may spark opposition from some Republicans. A confirmation hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected in September. Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski noted that it is rare for the newest FERC member to be elevated to Chairman. “I will carefully consider the nominee’s qualifications and fitness to serve—not only as Commissioner, but also as Chair,” she said. If confirmed by the Senate, Binz would replace outgoing FERC Chairman, Jon Wellinghoff, who recently told National Public Radio that renewable energy needs to stand on its own without federal subsidies. “[I] think we need to go to a market-based system and ultimately let solar compete with these other technologies and it will drive down costs,” he said. Wellinghoff plans to stay until his replacement is confirmed.
  • On July 18, 2013, FERC revised its regulations governing rate filings for intrastate and Hinshaw pipelines, adopting revised notice procedures intended to simplify the periodic rate review process.