Mar 24, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Lawmakers reject renewables aid in latest round of coronavirus relief

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The renewable power sector would not get sought-after aid in the COVID-19 economic plans before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, a setback for the industry warning of steep job losses and scuttled projects.

Driving the news: House Democrats' $2.5 trillion proposal unveiled last night omits what industry groups and some lawmakers wanted: an extension of deadlines to use tax credits and the ability to quickly monetize them. The provisions are also absent from the Senate's GOP-drafted "phase three" proposal.

The intrigue: There may be room for negotiation. The House plan lacks White House-backed language in the Senate bill that would provide $3 billion to buy oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

What they're saying: Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who heads the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and is among the lawmakers seeking the renewables' aid, tells Axios she'll fight to include the provisions in the "phase three" bill.

  • "As President Trump and Sen. McConnell insist on bailing out polluters through the COVID stimulus bill, my Democratic colleagues and I will keep fighting to protect the millions of clean energy workers affected by this crisis."

But, but, but: While the industry hasn’t given up on this round, a push in a subsequent COVID-19 aid package is possible.

  • The absence of the provisions in the measure Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled last night signals that they're not among Democratic leadership's priorities in this round.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are attacking Democrats for efforts to include renewable tax provisions and other climate-related measures in "phase three."
  • And, this morning, President Trump via Twitter attacked efforts to put green provisions into the stimulus.
  • Democrats' leverage is limited, given GOP control of the White House and Senate and the need to quickly take steps to shore up the collapsing economy.

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How the coronavirus stimulus bill impacts the energy sector

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House and Senate struck a deal on a roughly $2 trillion economic rescue package early Wednesday that lacks separate energy provisions sought by Republicans and Capitol Hill Democrats.

Driving the news: It omits $3 billion to buy roughly 77 million barrels of oil for the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a plan Democrats called a "bailout" for the oil industry, per Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

White House, Congress reach deal on $2 trillion coronavirus relief package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves a meeting in the Strom Thurmond Room during negotiations in Washington, D.C. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After days of intense negotiations, the White House and Republican and Democratic Senate leaders struck a bipartisan deal early Wednesday over a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: The emergency legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to pass later Wednesday will deliver vital aid to workers, small businesses, corporations and health care providers under strain from the illness, which has infected more than 55,000 people in the U.S. and killed more than 800.

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Pelosi: New coronavirus relief package may be ready this week

Nancy Pelosi during a news conference on Capitol Hill last Thursday. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Monday that a second economic relief package to combat the coronavirus outbreak could be introduced as soon as this week.

The big picture: The package, outlined by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Sunday, is an alternative plan to President Trump's economic proposal that would include a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly workers, which the top Democrats criticized for focusing on the stock market, rather than the outbreak.

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