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Senate Introduces New ‘Green’ Legislation, Advances Energy Secretary Nominee

Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

While negotiations continue with the Biden Administration this week over a COVID-19 relief package, and the Senate held hearings on Cabinet nominees, Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that would create a $100 billion national green bank to fund clean energy projects.

The proposal is intended to be part of the larger infrastructure package and is being pushed by Senators Chris Van Hollen (MD), Ed Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Brian Schatz (HI).

The Council is working to ensure that funding sources like this do not prohibit oil and gas companies. Our position is that “traditional” oil and gas companies working on renewable energy projects should be entitled to access these funds, as well as DOE research funds. Taxpayer money should not discriminate against particular companies, especially when they are working on similar technologies. Many technologies that will lead the energy transition come from the OFS sector, and it’s important our companies are not excluded from government research and development investment, and loan opportunities such as this. We expect this issue to be an ongoing concern for the Council and our members.

The Council is closely following implementation of the executive order limiting new leasing on federal lands and waters, which was released by the Biden administration last week. Despite numerous comments from the administration promising that the order would only limit new leases and not new permits, according to an Interior spokesman, about 70 permits were revoked last week because they were approved in violation of the Interior Department’s January 20 secretarial order.

According to the spokesman, the order requires top political appointees, instead of career staff, to approve any application for a permit to drill for 60 days. The Council will continue to monitor this development and work with allies in Congress. In response to this executive order, the Council formed a federal lands task force with other energy trade organizations and is launching a large advocacy program on the issue.

On Wednesday, the Senate Energy Committee advanced the nomination of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to become Secretary of Energy by a 13-4 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV), who leads the panel, praised Granholm for her work on climate issues while Sen. John Barasso (WY), lead Republican on the panel, voted against the nominee. He said his vote was due to her support for President Biden’s executive order limiting new leases for production on federal lands and waters.

Pete Buttigieg was confirmed on Tuesday as Secretary of Transportation by a vote of 86-13. His nomination is critical to our sector because will be a key administration leader of the $2 trillion infrastructure plan. Buttigieg has pledged to make Pres. Biden’s goal of installing 500,000 new electric car charging stations central to the infrastructure package. These charging stations will be installed around the country.

Also on Tuesday, 10 Senate Republicans met with President Biden at the White House to discuss the COVID-19 relief bill. Republicans and Democrats still disagree on what should be included in the measure. Republicans are offering $618 billion, and President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief plan. Negotiations could last for a few weeks since the Paycheck Protection Program and the refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave will expire on March 31.

If you would like to get involved in the Council’s advocacy efforts on this, or any other, issue, please contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley