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Gaming out the next energy bill

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Feb 15, 2024
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Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

The Hill's bleak legislative landscape already has folks around town thinking about what's possible in a lame duck session and the next Congress.

Why it matters: Progress on permitting has stalled. The spending bills are uncertain. Fights over LNG and IRA implementation have taken the spotlight off other legislation.

  • But industry is keeping the pressure on in hopes of building a coalition for the next energy and permitting bill.

State of play: Lobbyists hope for permitting to move in a lame duck session, particularly if Joe Manchin and John Barrasso can come up with a consensus proposal in the next few months.

  • That could look something like the 2020 energy bill — another piece of Manchin maneuvering — which kicked around for two years before hitching a ride on the post-election omnibus.
  • But while you shouldn't "put the nail in the coffin" on a 2024 permitting bill, Congress has "bigger fish to fry," Rep. Garret Graves told Axios.
  • "Compared to December, I'd take a few percentage points off the likelihood that we get something done on it this year," he said.

The big picture: Anything beyond that depends heavily on the outcome of the presidential election. But it's worth looking at how folks are thinking.

  • American Clean Power CEO Jason Grumet recently told Axios he's trying to unite the industry behind a consensus proposal to give to Congress in 2025.
  • That would include limits on judicial reviews for permits and changes to environmental laws to spur both pipeline and transmission development.
  • "There's definitely discussions across all the industry, and there have been for a while — between us, API, ACP, a lot of the organizations that care about this," said Eric Grey, VP of government relations for Edison Electric Institute.
  • What's possible in a lame duck, he said, will come into focus when and if Congress gets through the approps bills.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is already thinking about "IRA 2.0" in a second Biden term, as part of an agenda it plans to roll out in the coming months, Rep. Pramila Jayapal told Axios.

  • One problem she wants to address: "Structural barriers" that delay IRA and infrastructure law grants from getting to historically marginalized communities.
  • And if you ask any Democrat about the next climate and energy bill, it often comes back to transmission.
  • "We got 90% of the final bill in [the IRA]," Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden told Axios. The remaining 10%, he said, was "in effect the transmission provisions."

Our thought bubble: Progressives remain uninterested in an industry-friendly permits bill, which will continue to complicate a bipartisan deal.

  • There are also some divisions within industry about transmission; Grey said EEI has "concerns" about the two main Democratic transmission proposals.
  • But we live in a strange new world, where the coalitions that built the IRA will probably split on the next big energy policy bill. Part of what's changed is that renewables are now big business.
  • "I don't think ever before when we've had these discussions the renewable energy industry was as prime time as they are today," said Bracewell's Frank Maisano.
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