Major U.S. Congressional Actions in 2018 – Energy Policy

Appropriations

  • The September Minibus spending bill for FY 19 includes an increase in spending for several programs in DOE’s research branch.
  • Though the Trump budget proposal included a 70% cut to renewable energy research and a 14% cut to the Office of Science, neither was included in the final spending package and both budgets will increase from FY 18.
  • DOE appropriations were signed by the president in September.

Status: DOI and EPA budgets are included in the remaining budget bills set to be signed by 12/21

Confirmations

  • The Senate has confirmed many energy appointees in the Trump Administration this past year.
  • Several confirmation processes included a review of the appointees’ industry involvement.

Most recently, the confirmation vote for Bernard McNamee as FERC commissioner was nearly a party-line split with Sen. Manchin (D-WV) as the only Democrat to vote ‘yay’.

Status: Confirmations for head of EPA and DOI will take place in 2019

Nuclear Waste

  • The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage has been a contentious issue for years.
  • R. 3053, Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, which passed the House in May, proposes the consolidation of nuclear waste in one national location in Nevada.
  • The bill has a mix of support and opposition across the aisle and may be re-introduced in the next congressional session.

Status: Passed House in May, awaiting Senate vote

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

Trump Administration 2018 Recap

Affordable Clean Energy proposed rule

  • Released in August, this rule was proposed as a replacement to the Clean Power Plan.
  • The rule includes protections for coal plants and allows states to propose their own emission reductions goals.
  • The proposal was lauded by the fossil fuel industry and criticized by environmental leaders.

Offshore drilling proposal

  • In January, DOI and the White House released a proposal to open up almost all federal coastal waters for offshore drilling exploration.
  • This received immediate backlash from over half of the coastal states implicated.
  • 15 governors, one-third of the them Republican, publicly opposed the plan.

Federal siting reforms

  • The president’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan released in February included proposals to streamline federal siting and environmental review processes for energy projects.
  • The plan set time limits for federal agencies like FEMA or FERC to complete environmental reviews and narrowed the scope of reviews to the jurisdiction of fewer agencies.

The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans.” — Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, in an August EPA news release regarding the ACE rule

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

Potential 2019 Congressional Energy Policy Agenda Items

Green New Deal

  • Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced the proposal shortly after her election.
  • She proposes the creation of a Green New Deal select committee to be composed of 15 members appointed by the Speaker of the House; six members may be appointed by the Minority Leader.
  • The committee will have the authority to create a plan for economic mobilization that will move the United States towards carbon neutrality.
  • The plan for the Green New Deal includes a bundle of legislation that will expand renewable energy power with the goal of reaching 100% national power demand from renewable sources.
  • Over 30 Democratic members of the House have pledged support to the Green New Deal so far.
  • Many members are also pressuring leadership to re-instate the subcommittee on energy independence and global warming in the new session.

Carbon pricing

Potential legislation: H.R. 7173 Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

  • Bipartisan carbon tax bill imposes a $15 tax on carbon dioxide emissions to increase by $10 each year.
  • Creates a Carbon Dividend trust fund for tax dividend payments to US residents.
  • Lessens greenhouse gas emission regulations under the Clean Air Act.
  • This will replace the Market Choice Act introduced this summer as Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who sponsored the bill, did not win re-election.

“This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation.” — Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who proposed a select committee on the Green New Deal

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

Potential 2019 Trump Administration Energy Policy Agenda Items

Federal judge appointments

  • The courts have always played a key role in energy and environmental policy (e.g. shutting down the Clean Power Plan and halting construction of pipelines).
  • The president has appointed several judges that share his deregulatory agenda and will most likely continue to do so in 2019.

Fossil fuel supports

  • The US delegation to the UNFCCC was the only nation to hold an event promoting fossil fuel at COP24.
  • In 2019, the administration will continue to lessen regulatory processes for fossil fuel development.
  • Further, the fossil fuel industry will continue to play a role in administration appointments.

Energy dominance

  • “Energy dominance” has been a defining phrase of the president’s energy agenda.
  • The president aims to become a global leader in the production of natural gas & oil.
  • As the trade war with China and the renegotiated NAFTA continue to influence the trade landscape, the administration will continue to seek energy dominance in the global market.

We will bring new opportunity to the heartland, new prosperity to our inner cities, and new infrastructure all across our nation. When it comes to the future of America’s energy needs, we will find it, we will dream it, and we will build it.” — President Trump, at his 2017 “Unleashing American Energy” event

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

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