As Congress prepares to return from a two-week recess and the Administration continues its vocal approval of an all of the above approach to energy policy, policymakers are gearing up for debates over a number of energy issues. The House moves immediately to its version of the transportation bill, with a Keystone XL approval provision, while the Senate will take up tax legislation with higher phased rates for the wealthy.
Now that senators have failed twice to include energy tax extenders language onto the highway bill, and though there will be efforts to tack on similar amendments to additional measures that move through the houses between now and the November elections, many are beginning to seriously consider a lame duck strategy for adopting a number of the expired or expiring energy tax extenders as part of a larger end of the year package. For example, we can expect the solar industry to begin to direct less of its attention to the now four-months expired 1603 Treasury grants program as it works to preserve the investment tax credit that is not scheduled to expire until 2016.
With most tax credits on the table because of an increased debate over tax reform as well as a high likelihood that tax credits may be tweaked as part of a negotiated compromise agreement during the lame duck session, energy groups and others will need to prioritize their most efficient, effective, and necessary programs.
The Senate Agriculture Committee continues work on a farm bill, with a possible vote sometime during the week of April 23 on a bill very similar to the proposal committee Chairwoman Debbie A. Stabenow’s (D-MI) crafted last year to meet the super-committee’s targets. If the committee reports out a bill this month, it will likely head to the full Senate soon thereafter. However, with the need for a House version and then a conference of the two chambers’ bills, it will be an uphill battle to send something to the President before the election, or even in the lame duck. It could possibly be pushed to the next Congress, with short-term extensions on the current bill, which expires September 30.
One major EPA regulation had its day in court at the end of last week. On April 13 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in several states and utilities’ challenge of the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Most significantly, one member of the three-judge panel, Judge Thomas Griffith, raised the issue for the first time that the petitioners’ may have failed to raise the issue of EPA’s methodology during the rule's public comment period. This is vital to their case against the EPA because petitioners may only litigate issues raised during the official public comment period, and their comments do not address the methodology issue. EPA issued the final rule in July 2011, requiring 3,631 electricity-generating units in 28 states to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide that cross state lines; however the D.C. Circuit stayed the rule on December 30, 2011, two days before it was set to take effect. A decision is expected this summer, huge implications for coalfired electrical generation as several other major EPA coal regulations are all in the works as well.