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House Spending Bills Come Up Short; FERC Commissioners Finally Confirmed

us-capitolOver the last week, the U.S. House of Representatives moved two spending bills forward that would be harmful to advanced energy interests. In the Senate, a long confirmation process came to an end with Cheryl LaFleur and Norman Bay confirmed as commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) but only after the White House committed to keeping LaFleur as the chair for nine months before elevating Bay to the role. Meanwhile, DOE’s Loan Program Office offered $4 billion in loan guarantees for the “next wave” of innovative energy technologies.

Last Thursday, the House passed a fiscal 2015 energy and water spending bill (H.R. 4923) by a vote of 253-170, after several attempts by House Democrats to eliminate riders detrimental to advanced energy. The White House issued a veto threat on Wednesday citing, among other issues, underfunding of “critical investments that develop American energy sources to build a clean and secure energy future, support the emerging clean energy technologies that create high-quality jobs, and enhance the Nation’s economic competiveness.” The House bill included provisions that would: 

  • Fund DOE renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency programs at $1.8 billion, $546 million below the White House budget request.
  • Fund Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) – one of DOE’s most popular programs on both sides of the aisle – at $235 million, $45 million below the White House request.
  • Prevent DOE from enforcing energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), light bulb manufacturers oppose the provision and intend to comply with the standards regardless of whether they’re enforced.
  • Block a $150 million DOE loan guarantee for the Cape Wind offshore wind project.
  • Prevent DOE from fully studying the impact of energy projects on two fronts:
    • Blocking proposed funding for DOE to develop various climate assessments, including the “Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis.”
    • Blocking funds for a report on the “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States.”

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee was back at it, sending a fiscal 2015 interior and environment spending bill to the floor that would: 

  • Fund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at $7.5 billion, a reduction of $717 million, or 9%, below fiscal 2014 levels.
  • Block EPA’s proposals to regulate carbon emissions from new, modified, and existing power plants
  • Deny a White House request for an additional $24.3 million to help states prepare to meet carbon emissions standards for existing power plants

As reported by E&E News, National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) President Bill Becker said that state air regulators “are being set up for failure” by moves in Congress to thwart EPA regulations, and that cutting the funds to help states will impact “other stakeholders including the regulated community.”

With prospects for either spending bill poor in the Senate and facing the threat of presidential veto, Congress will likely have to enact a short-term continuing resolution before October 1 or risk another government shutdown.

In Congressional action of a more constructive nature, the Senate voted 52-45 to confirm Bay and 90-7 to confirm LaFleur as FERC commissioners. As we reported previously, the nominations would not have moved forward without the White House agreeing to allow LaFleur to stay on as FERC chair for a period of time before Bay being assigned to the leadership role.

Meanwhile, DOE continues on with its revived loan guarantee program. Following the announcement of the first loan guarantee for an offshore wind project, DOE announced on July 3 a solicitation for up to $4 billion in financing “intended to support the first commercial-scale deployments of the next wave of innovative clean energy technologies.” The five target areas include advanced grid integration and storage, drop-in biofuels, waste-to-energy, enhancement of existing facilities, and efficiency improvements.

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