E&E Daily’s Juliano previews legislative battles facing new Congress

Source: By Monica Trauzzi, E&E • Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014

What will a GOP-led Congress mean for energy and environment policy? On today’s The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Nick Juliano discusses his latest reporting from Capitol Hill as Republicans gear up for the shift in power. Juliano talks about the future of U.S. EPA emissions and water regulations, Keystone XL and infrastructure. He also previews the upcoming lame-duck session.

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Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. What will a GOP-run Congress mean for energy and environment policy? E&E Daily‘s Nick Juliano joins me with the latest reporting from the Hill as Republicans prepare for the power shift. Mitch McConnell has been waiting to become majority leader for quite some time. How aggressive can he be on energy policy and not compromise a potential Republican win in 2016? What’s the strategy?

Nick Juliano: Well, Mitch McConnell’s first order of business is return to regular order. That’s what he’s talked about throughout the campaign of his last few years. No votes on amendments, you know, Senator Reid has kept a really tight control over what’s come to the floor. McConnell says he wants to change that, so that means bills that have passed the House — there have been dozens of jobs bills that Speaker Boehner keeps talking about — those will probably see the votes in the Senate. We’ll see amendment votes on that, but, like you say, 2016 is a very different landscape for Republicans. They have several members running in states that Obama won. That’s going to create some difficulty for those members, just as we saw with moderate Democrats in red states this year.

Monica Trauzzi: EPA’s regulations for emissions and water will continue to draw fire here in Washington. Beyond oversight, will we see Republicans do anything substantive to either change or stop these rules from going forward?

Nick Juliano: They will absolutely try. I mean, McConnell has been fairly straightforward that budget riders — he tried to do a Congressional Review Act resolution last year. That may come back. I mean, who knows what else that we haven’t thought about yet? The thing is, they still need 60 votes to get anything through the Senate, and they probably don’t have 60 votes to completely undo the EPA agenda. So you might see narrow or sort of rifle-shot attempts to tweak this rule by maybe, you know, adjusting interim targets or making some other sort of smaller bullet changes.

Monica Trauzzi: You reported this week that infrastructure could be a potential area for compromise. What’s the path towards a package on infrastructure?

Nick Juliano: It’s still sort of unclear. I mean, infrastructure’s one thing that both the president and Republicans in Congress say that they want to do. In terms of energy infrastructure, last year, we saw Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton make a big focus on the “architecture of abundance,” as he calls it. So typically, that has meant more oil and gas pipelines. Mr. Upton had a bill with Gene Green, I believe, to adjust international border crossing, trying to avoid problems like Keystone has had. Congressman Mike Pompeo, from Kansas, had a bill to put a deadline on FERC decisionmaking for domestic pipelines. Now, where things go from here remains to be seen. These are relatively modest attempts that they tried to do last year, according to some industry folks I’ve talked to, and I mean, Democrats will probably want something in a deal, too, maybe power lines for green energy or something like that, but there’s a lot of talking, still, to be done.

Monica Trauzzi: So Keystone XL has been back in the headlines all week since the elections. Is congressional passage possible, and if so, would the president, then, be compelled to sign the legislation?

Nick Juliano: Maybe. I mean, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, was asked about this yesterday. He sort of left the door open and said, “We’ll take a look at anything they send us.” It looks like there’s 60 votes for a Keystone bill in the Senate with the number of seats that have changed over. Moderate Democrats who have voted it in previous contexts may face a little bit more pressure to change that vote, but it looks like there’s a pretty good passage, and that’s almost certain to be one of the first orders of business next year.

Monica Trauzzi: More near-term, what are you looking for in the lame duck?

Nick Juliano: The big issue for us is going to be tax extenders in the lame duck. There’s a fight already brewing over the production tax credit, which we’ve seen happen over the last couple years. Several conservative groups, many of which are part of the Koch brothers’ political networks, sent a letter yesterday at House leadership saying, “If you extend the PTC, this is an endorsement of the president’s climate agenda,” really trying to sort of up the pressure in the lame duck. I get the sense that Republican leadership really wants to just sort of clear the decks, you know, so that may provide some openness for a PTC extension to still slip through.

The other big thing is a spending bill. They’re going to have to do something by December to prevent another shutdown. Hal Rogers, the Appropriations chairman Republican leader, seemed to want to do an omnibus that will get us through the rest of this fiscal year, sort of start with a clean slate in January. Whether or not the rank and file goes along with it is — remains to be seen. So members get back next week and we’ll hit the ground running.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Great reporting, as always. Thank you for coming on the show.

Nick Juliano: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We’ll see you then.