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What we're watching in 2024

U.S. Capitol

The Capitol in December. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Get ready for a year of "will they or won't they" in Congress.

Why it matters: Everyone expects an election-year legislative logjam — but Congress will get at least a few things done this year (probably). We've broken them down into five categories.

Here's what to watch (hopefully to the tune of Trey's crunchy grooves) ...

💸 Appropriations: For energy policy purposes, Jan. 19 is the deadline for the Energy-Water title, and Feb. 2 is the Interior Department and EPA deadline.

  • As we've explained, the funding fights could determine the future of President Biden's energy and climate agenda as well as some IRA programs.

👍 Reauthorizations: A cavalcade of programs need to be renewed ASAP. They include the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Flood Insurance Program, and CFATS, the anti-terrorism program protecting chemical production facilities.

  • The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's governing statute also expired in September amid a GOP push to include more fossil-friendly language in the agency's next authorization.
  • Then there's the farm bill, which got an extension until Sept. 30, and another NDAA to get through in the fall.

⚙️ Confirmations: The Senate has teed up a vote when it returns next week to confirm Joe Goffman to head up EPA's Air and Radiation Office.

  • Sen. Tom Carper told reporters before the break that he believes Goffman, who's already leading the office as principal deputy assistant administrator, will be "narrowly confirmed."
  • FERC, meanwhile, will be down to three members because commissioner James Danly said he would step down at the end of 2023, so we expect plenty of chatter in the coming weeks about filling the two open seats.

⚙️ Policy machinations: Now we're getting to less-certain territory — legislation that lawmakers are earnestly trying to get done, but might not.

  • Senators are still debating a supplemental foreign aid package that could include more than $2 billion in reprogrammed money for uranium supply.
  • Speaking of which, we could see Senate action early in the year on the Russian uranium ban bill the House passed in December. Ted Cruz has been blocking quick passage because of a separate procedural dispute with the House.
  • We're waiting for someone to try to break the gridlock that's stopped a bill mandating AM radios in cars that's bedeviled EV allies.
  • And we'll be watching this year's great negotiating story: whether lawmakers can make a deal on nuclear licensing reform and hydropower permitting.

🧠 Policy ruminations: This is the stuff lawmakers will talk about incessantly and might get around to doing — if they can resolve disagreements on the substance.

  • Top of mind is a larger environmental permitting and transmission deal. It feels unlikely at this point, but industry lobbyists think there could be an opening early this year.
  • We finally got a look at Bill Cassidy's carbon tariff proposal in late 2023. That policy conversation likely won't get serious until 2025 and beyond, but we could see lawmakers try to move the bipartisan PROVE IT Act.
  • There's momentum for aggressive action against China, with Senate Democrats prepping a bill and House select China panel recommendations teed up for an attempt at attaching policies to this year's NDAA.
  • We'll also be watching to see if the House Republican anti-ESG bills get floor time, even if they can't become law, and for dead-end Congressional Review Act votes on Biden rulemakings.

Between the lines: With low chances for consequential energy policy action in Congress this year, the most important story in D.C. remains at the regulatory level, as the Biden administration finalizes IRA implementation and a suite of climate policies.

  • We're almost certainly going to get final emission disclosure and energy efficiency requirements, finished standards for autos and power plants, and protections for Indigenous lands and imperiled species.
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