Energy and Environmental Update
Policymakers returned to Washington last week after a two-week hiatus and embarked on what insiders characterize as the onset of a number of work periods that will be the busiest during an election year.
This week could see some activity on energy-related legislation on the Senate floor. While negotiations still remain in flux regarding potential amendments, cloture was filed last week on S.2262, colloquially known as the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. Negotiations reached a stalemate last week regarding the number of energy-related amendments that could be offered (see more below). A key point of discussion last week was Senate Majority Leader Reid’s (D-NV) acquiescence permitting floor consideration of legislation that would require construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. At this juncture, it appears unlikely S.2262 will advance. The House is not expected to take up energy-related legislation on the floor this week.
On the budget front, Senate Subcommittee appropriators are expected to receive their 302(b) allocations, or the amount of funding allowed for each appropriations bill, which could mean that each Subcommittee will begin drafting and negotiating their FY 2015 spending bills as early as this week. Senate Appropriations Chair Mikulski (D-MD) has made clear her intention to move the bills before the lame duck session so as to avoid action after the elections. Reid has committed four weeks of floor time later this summer for appropriations bill consideration. House appropriators have been busy on their front and endeavor to have their bills on the House floor by the end of June.
Items of Interest:
- Shaheen-Portman Bill Potentially Considered Amidst Tensions on Amendments. Previously on the Senate floor in the fall of 2013 before becoming victim to an amendment stalemate and the then imminent government shutdown, a new version of the energy efficiency legislation was introduced earlier this year addressing some compromises. Among the amendments currently in play are ones that address liquefied natural gas exports, delays in the administration’s carbon reduction standards for utilities, and an amendment that would allow for any carbon tax proposal to be subject to a budget point of order. Washington buzz indicates that the bill is likely to see a similar fate as last year and is unlikely to move.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Nominations in Play. Norman Bay, the current FERC Director for Compliance and Obama Administration nominee to serve as FERC Chairman, will have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) on May 20, 2014. Bay’s nomination, which was announced in January of this year, has been held up as a result of ensuing events that resulted in a change of leadership at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over FERC. There has been much chatter that advancement of Bay’s nomination was contingent on the re-nomination of current Acting FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to once again serve on the FERC Commission. LaFleur’s nomination was announced late last week. LaFleur will also appear before ENR with Bay.
- LNG Export Legislation Approved by House Committee; Similar Bill Introduced in the Senate. The Energy & Commerce Committee, in a 33-18 vote, advanced a bipartisan modified bill, originally proposed by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-4-CO), who is running neck and neck against Senator Mark Udall (D-CO). As approved, the bill requires that the Department of Energy issue a decision on applications for natural gas export facilities no later than 90 days after the comment period ends or upon enactment of the legislation. Originally, the bill approved all pending applications immediately. Udall, who had championed somewhat similar legislation to his opponents’ bill in the Senate, released a modified version last week that mirrors the Committee approved version.