Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley
The House of Representatives continues to look for a Speaker of the House after several days of voting. At the time of this writing, the only remaining candidate is Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), who is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Jordan had previously run against Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA-1) for the post, but became the only candidate after Scalise dropped out of the race.
On Tuesday of this week, Jordan lost the first attempt at being elected as Speaker with 20 no votes, and lost an additional attempt on Wednesday with 22 no votes. This number makes the future for him unclear. He could try an additional round of ballots, or a new candidate may emerge. The only other option would be a bipartisan vote to either grant interim Speaker Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) some sort of temporary powers to act as Speaker for a defined period of time or for Republicans to cut a deal with Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY-8) and the Democrats for some sort of power-sharing agreement. The prospect of McHenry serving as a temporary speaker gained more ground Wednesday, and Democrat Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL-23) said he would vote in favor of a resolution to empower McHenry and predicted many of his colleagues would do the same.
While the Game of Thrones drama in the House has been fun to watch, the real question for the sector is what’s the prospect of important legislation moving through the House anytime soon? Well, the good news is that even without a speaker, legislative business at the committee level has continued. In fact, House Natural Resources held an oversight hearing this week on the recently announced Biden Administration’s five-year plan for the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA-6) has strong legislation to push back on this flawed plan, so the House having a Speaker will be helpful on that front to be able to get things moving.
What are the implications for the energy industry? Dysfunction in the House is not good for the prospects of getting any pending legislation over the finish line, that can be assured, and permitting reform still hangs in the balance. However, without a functioning House, that is on permanent hold.
Of perhaps more immediate concern is the ability of the House to serve as a check to administrative agency actions. Although committees are still meeting without a Speaker, no actual legislation that they report out will see the floor. This could be significant for many pending regulatory actions. For example, the SEC continues to indicate we may see an ESG rule released in the coming weeks, perhaps even as soon as the last week of November. Should that occur, the House, if fully functioning, would likely move to have a disapproval resolution of this rule.
While the rule would likely pass the House with a margin too low to sustain a veto by the President, the procedure would still have impactful significance in order to gauge the level of support the final rule has in Congress. Low levels of support could force the Administration to make changes in order to sustain the rule. This could be very impactful for our sector.
In addition, other major regulatory actions, such as the methane rule implementation, could be impacted by the lack of a functioning House. Time will tell how long this impasse lasts, but with only a few options to dig out of the hole, and the uniqueness of this scenario, there is no guarantee of a near-term solution. Also complicating the situation is that the current continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running expires on November 17, so some solution, long term or short term, will have to be brokered by that point.
DOE Releases Hydrogen Hub Announcement
After much anticipation, the Biden Administration released a formal announcement detailing its comprehensive strategy for the seven regional Hydrogen Hubs that will receive the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to help spur up to $40 billion in spending on hydrogen production and distribution. The hubs are spread out geographically throughout the country, and the federal money will be distributed to help support private investment in the necessary infrastructure to support the projects.
The seven regional hubs are:
Mid-Atlantic Hydrogen Hub
(Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2): Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey)
- Will focus on developing renewable hydrogen production facilities from renewable and nuclear electricity using both established and innovative electrolyzer technologies, which can help reduce costs and drive further technology adoption.
Appalachian Hydrogen Hub
(Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2): West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania)
- The Appalachian Hydrogen Hub will use natural gas from the region to produce low-cost clean hydrogen and permanently and store the associated carbon emissions.
California Hydrogen Hub
(Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES): California)
- The hub will produce hydrogen exclusively from renewable energy and biomass with a focus on decarbonizing public transportation, heavy-duty trucking and port operations.
Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub
(HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub: Texas)
- The Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub will be centered in the Houston and focus on large scale hydrogen production through both natural gas with carbon capture and renewables-powered electrolysis.
Heartland Hydrogen Hub
(Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota)
- The Heartland Hydrogen Hub will leverage the region’s abundant energy resources to help decarbonize the agricultural sector’s production of fertilizer, decrease the regional cost of clean hydrogen and advance the use of clean hydrogen in electric generation and for cold climate space heating.
Midwest Hydrogen Hub
(Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan)
- The Midwest Hydrogen Hub will aim to use hydrogen for steel and glass production, power generation, refining, heavy-duty transportation and sustainable aviation fuel.
Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub
(PNW H2: Washington, Oregon, Montana)
- The Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub plans to produce clean hydrogen exclusively from renewable sources.
Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.