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Washington Week: Green New Deal vote on tap; US Congress to probe Trump budget


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Washington Week: Green New Deal vote on tap; US Congress to probe Trump budget

Following a one-week break, the U.S. Senate will take a key step the week of March 25 toward voting on the Green New Deal resolution, a sweeping proposal that seeks to slash greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector and other industries.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed cloture in mid-March on a motion to proceed to Senate Joint Resolution 8, which calls for the establishment of a Green New Deal. Among other goals, the measure calls for a 10-year "national mobilization" to help the U.S. meet all its electricity demand with renewable, non-emitting or "clean" energy resources. The resolution also calls for the country as a whole to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Source: Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the proposal in early February as a simple non-binding resolution aimed at spurring action on climate change. But after its release, McConnell re-introduced the proposal as a Senate joint resolution, meaning the measure would carry the force of law if both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved it and the president signed it. What carrying the force of law means practically is unclear, however, given the Green New Deal does not outline any specific proposals for meeting its goals.

Invoking cloture on the Green New Deal resolution would limit debate on the proposal to 30 hours, after which the Senate could vote on passage. But Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, have vehemently opposed the resolution and will almost certainly reject it. McConnell nevertheless said such a move was important to determine whether Democrats truly stand behind the resolution's sweeping energy targets and calls for universal healthcare and jobs guarantees for Americans.

But many Democrats are angered at McConnell's push for speedy floor consideration and could vote "present" rather than for or against the resolution. They also see Republican Senate leaders trying to turn the proposal into a wedge issue for voters by emphasizing its potential costs even though lawmakers have yet to introduce bills to work toward the resolution's goals.

Report: GOP Green New Deal response in works

As the Senate prepares to take up the Green New Deal resolution, a Republican lawmaker in the House could release his own response to the proposal.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is expected to release a "Green Real Deal" resolution in the coming days that acknowledges climate change is a threat to national security and calls on the government to promote innovation in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Politico reported March 22. But the resolution will not set specific emissions reduction targets or seek to exclude certain energy technologies.

Perry to testify on DOE budget

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is scheduled to testify before House and Senate lawmakers on the Trump administration's fiscal year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy. He will appear March 26 before the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies. A day later, Perry will testify in front of the Senate appropriations committee on the DOE's budget request.

The White House has proposed an 11% cut to the DOE's budget, including a roughly 70% decrease in funding for the agency's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The proposal drew swift rebukes from congressional lawmakers, who have largely resisted the Trump administration's prior calls to curtail DOE energy research spending. And Congress is ultimately in charge of proposing and passing appropriations bills to fund federal agencies, leaving little chance that DOE spending will be trimmed to the White House's desired levels.

In addition to the DOE's budget, two House hearings are scheduled the week of March 25 on the U.S. Department of Interior's budget. The White House requested $12.59 billion for Interior in the fiscal year 2020, down 14% from 2019 appropriations.

FERC, DOE to hold security conference

On March 28, the DOE and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold a technical conference focused on security investments and best practices for protecting energy infrastructure from physical and cyber attacks and other threats.

The joint conference, which will take place at FERC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., comes as the energy sector grapples with trying to guard itself against persistent cyber incursions and a rising number of extreme weather events.

The conference's first panel will cover cyber and physical security, best practices, and industry and government engagement and include participants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. American Electric Power Co. Inc. President and CEO Nicholas Akins, North American Electric Reliability Corp. President and CEO James Robb, and Interstate Natural Gas Association of America President and CEO Don Santa, will also appear.

The second panel will address incentives and cost recovery for security investments and feature Exelon Corp. President and CEO Chris Crane and Southwest Power Pool President and CEO Nicholas Brown.

Nuclear industry storming Capitol Hill

The Nuclear Energy Institute has organized a Nuclear Innovation Week event March 25-28 in Washington, D.C. The first three days of the conference will focus on industry geopolitics, research and development, and deployment of advanced reactors. On the final day, industry members will meet with lawmakers and staff on Capitol Hill to discuss key policy issues.

The gathering comes as the U.S. nuclear industry struggles with an aging fleet and rising competition from natural gas-fired and renewable generation that has contributed to a wave of nuclear plant retirements in recent years.

States, including Illinois and New Jersey, have passed laws to subsidize some nuclear plants within their borders based on their lack of emissions, but finding a federal remedy has proved difficult. FERC rejected the DOE's September 2017 proposal to underpin nuclear plants to ensure grid resilience, and legislation last Congress to provide federal tax credits for existing facilities never made it beyond the committee level.

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US Congress
March 26

Energy Secretary Rick Perry will testify on the DOE's fiscal year 2020 budget request before the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies.

March 26

The House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the U.S. Department of Interior's fiscal year 2020 budget request.

March 27

The Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will hold a hearing on the DOE's fiscal year 2020 budget estimates and justifications.

March 27

The House Committee on Natural Resources will examine the Interior Department's spending priorities for fiscal year 2020.

March 28

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will examine David Bernhardt's nomination to be Secretary of the Interior.

March 28

The House Committee on Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing, "Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation: Innovative Approaches and Economic Development Opportunities."

Federal agencies
March 28

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and DOE will hold a joint technical conference at FERC's Washington, D.C., headquarters on electric grid security, including cyber and physical protections.

Industry events

March 25-29

The Nuclear Energy Institute's Nuclear Innovation Week will take place in Washington, D.C.

March 25-26

Bloomberg New Energy Finance will hold an energy and finance summit in New York City.

March 25

The Heritage Foundation and Pacific Legal Foundation will co-host an event in Washington, D.C., on federal "overreach" under the Clean Water Act.

March 25

The Atlantic Council will host a conversation at its Washington, D.C., office on "Climate Change & National Security: Protecting Integrity of Threat Assessments."

March 28

The Carbon Utilization Research Council, the Global CCS Institute, and the Carbon Capture Coalition will co-host a luncheon in Washington, D.C., on "Achieving Energy and Climate Goals — The Role of Carbon Capture."

March 28

Resources for the Future will host a discussion on carbon pricing featuring U.S. Sen Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.

Notable stories from last week

Vogtle nuclear project receives additional $3.7B loan guarantee from DOE

Carbon capture at center of debate over US EPA's rule for new coal plants

White House backs strategic power reserve that could favor coal, nuclear units

US EPA's mercury proposal ignores science, actual compliance costs, critics say

Politically outspoken FERC official resigns

FERC launches inquiries into ROE setting, transmission incentive policies

Climate change takes center stage as Democrats vie for White House

Federal judge: Wyo. leases cannot be drilled until climate change is considered