Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley
Congress returned to work this week with both the House and Senate facing multiple deadlines and significant pieces of legislation on the docket. Many of the pending bills could contain provisions affecting our sector and the economy as a whole.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised centrist Democrats she will hold a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure package by September 27. While this pledge is not binding, it exemplifies growing divisions within her caucus on the bill.
Fears have been growing in Washington that if she brings it to the floor next week, there may not be sufficient votes to pass. Complicating the effort is that some progressives say they will not support this package unless she brings the larger $3.5 billion reconciliation package up for a vote at the same time.
This package does not appear to have sufficient support to pass at this point. Without the votes of progressives, the bipartisan infrastructure package could be delayed.
This infrastructure package is important to our sector because it includes the language of the REGROW Act, which would provide more than $4 billion of federal funds for plugging orphan wells across the country. These funds would flow through existing state programs and many Council companies would be eligible to participate. This funding has bipartisan support, and the Council has worked to strengthen provisions throughout the legislative process.
On top of these challenges, Congress must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past September 30. The majority aims to pass a short-term measure to extend the deadline until December 3, but passage is also uncertain. Speaker Pelosi has sought to marry the two must-pass bills and the continuing resolution with a measure to raise the debt ceiling, which also runs out in October.
Republicans have so far resisted attempts to join the bills and Republican votes will be needed to get any package out of the Senate. Ultimately, there’s likely to be a compromise, as it is unlikely that either party will want to deal with the fallout from instability in the financial markets created by a government shutdown or a pending debt limit deadline.
The reconciliation package also continues its march to the floor with some good news for our sector. Many of the proposed tax changes for oil and gas did not make it through the House Ways and Means Committee.
A group of Democrats with significant energy employment in their districts, led by Rep. Cuellar, wrote a letter to House leadership urging them to not include these tax changes because they could threaten employment in industry and raise the cost of energy in the United States.
This letter was vital because margins in the House for passage of the final bill are less than the number of legislators who signed the letter. Vigilance is necessary because the provisions could be added on the floor of the House or Senate.
Problematic methane tax provisions did emerge from the Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as increased fees and royalties for leases on federal lands. As the reconciliation bill continues to be formulated, we will provide additional updates.
President Biden Announces Vaccine Mandate
Earlier this month, President Biden released an executive order directing the Department of Labor to formulate a new rule that would require places of employment in the United States with more than 100 employees to require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. Additionally, government contractors and potentially those that operate on federal leases could be included in the mandate.
We expect additional guidance from DOL on this new rule shortly. The Council will provide implementation recommendations and other guidance as it becomes available.
For more information on the Council’s advocacy efforts or to get involved, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley.
Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.