With the House out this week, activity on the Capitol will continue to focus on the Senate. As anticipated in last week’s Washington Energy Update, the Senate failed to meet the 60-vote threshold necessary to move the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. Caught up again amidst efforts to include various energy-related amendments, the bill could procedurally be brought up again before the end of the 113th Congress, although the last two failed efforts do not augur well for its passage in the near future. The inaction on the energy efficiency legislation also means that the Senate is unlikely to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline before the November mid-term elections.
This week the upper chamber will take up tax extenders legislation that was approved last month in the Senate Finance Committee. Using House-passed H.R. 3474 as the legislative vehicle, the Senate is likely to clear the motion to proceed, which could result in further legislative activity at the end of the week. As previously reported, the Senate and the House have taken different approaches, with the Senate placing a number of provisions in an all-encompassing bill but with two-year extensions, and the House pursuing a more “piecemeal” strategy that provides for the permanent extension of various tax incentives, but not in an all-encompassing measure. Last week the House passed legislation that provided for the permanent extension of only the research and development tax credit. It is anticipated that upon its return, the House could consider other tax-related items, including a proposal to extend permanently the $500,000 cap on small business expensing. Notably, neither the House nor Senate bill is paid for. Enactment of a bill cleared by both chambers and ready for the President’s signature is not anticipated until after the mid-term elections.
The House and Senate will be in session next week.
Other Items of Interest:
- Bay and LaFleur To Come before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee: 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 ENR Committee 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. Acting FERC Chair, Cheryl LaFleur, will also appear before ENR with Bay. Bay could face probing questions regarding his policy positions on various matters. At this juncture, there is speculation that some ENR members continue to support LaFleur as FERC Chair.
In other confirmation-related proceedings, the Senate this week confirmed Dr. Steven Croley to serve as the General Counsel for the Department of Energy.
- Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Releases Transportation Reauthorization Proposal: EPW leadership has released a six-year transportation reauthorization measure, S.2322, which the Committee will consider on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Generally, along with the inclusion of some new freight grant programs, the bill keeps current funding levels plus inflation. The EPW portion of the bill will eventually need to be merged with bills from the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee that remain forthcoming. Insiders speculate that enactment of a measure this Congress is unlikely with an extension being more likely until the next Congress.
- Washington Prepares for Release of Carbon Reduction Standards Proposal for Existing Utilities on June 2, 2014: Pursuant to the schedule the President laid out last summer when he announced his Climate Action Plan, the Administration is expected to release its proposed guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing utilities. Insiders indicate that EPA appears to be moving away from a uniform national standard and instead toward a “tool box” approach that would provide states with various compliance options to account for unique circumstances that would make compliance with a national standard particularly challenging. The President directed EPA to finalize the guidelines by June 1, 2105. States will then have one additional year to amend their State Implementation Plans and adopt GHG emission reduction strategies for existing utilities. The release of the proposal augurs for further scrutiny and oversight by Congress this upcoming summer on the administration’s efforts to require carbon reductions, especially on its reliance on carbon capture and sequestration technology. EPA is also continuing to pursue nationally-applicable regulations to reduce GHG emissions from new utilities. The public comment period on EPA’s proposal closed on May 9, 2014, and the President has directed EPA to issue final regulations in a timely fashion after it considers all public comments.