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Energy & Sustainability Washington Updates – December 2018

Congressional Leadership for the 116th Congress

With the midterm elections behind us, the House and Senate have selected their leadership teams for the upcoming 116th Congress.

Top leadership remains the same in the Senate with Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) remaining in their posts.

Democrats have nominated Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to serve, again, as Speaker of the House, a position she previously held from 2007 – 2011. To retake the speaker’s gavel she will need to secure 218 votes from the full House in January. Rep. Hoyer (D-MD) was chosen to serve as Majority Leader.

House Republicans have elected Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) to serve as Minority Leader and Rep. Scalise (R-LA) as Minority Whip.

For more on the House and Senate leadership rosters for the 116th Congress, along with proposed changes to the Rules of the House of Representatives, please see ML Strategies’ recent post Looking Ahead to 2019 and the 116th Congress.

Congressional Energy Committee Leadership for the 116th Congress

We’re also starting to learn more about who will lead congressional committees and, although it isn’t likely to be made official until January, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the current ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, will take over as chairman next year. The current chairman, Greg Walden (R-OR), will serve as ranking member. Rep. Pallone has already indicated some of his top policy priorities for the committee, which will include addressing climate change (and the administration’s response), along with investments in renewable energy. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) intends to remain as chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee in the new congress, while the current ranking member Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) is aiming to give up that post to become the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee – an opportunity that opened up with the defeat of the current Commerce Committee ranking member Sen. Nelson (D-FL) in the November elections. Sen. Manchin (D-WV) is next in line to serve as Energy Committee ranking member and is likely to fill the position, although there is opposition from progressives who object to his views on energy policy. However, the only way for Sen. Manchin to be denied the ranking member position is for a more senior senator to claim the role — and those in the position to do so have said they won’t — or for Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) to sidestep the rules and appoint someone else, but this would buck tradition and is unlikely.

Bipartisan Carbon Fee Legislation Introduced

On November 27 Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rooney (R-FL), Delaney (D-MD), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Crist (D-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to price carbon. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) is intended to help reduce US carbon pollution by 40% in 12 years, with a 91% reduction target by 2050 (based on 2015 levels). The bill proposes to price carbon at $15 per metric ton of CO2e and increase the price by $10 annually. The Treasury Department would return 100% of the net revenue back to the American people. With just a few days remaining in the 115th Congress, final action on this legislation is highly unlikely, but we will look for a renewed effort next year. A one-pager on the legislation can be found here, and the text of the legislation can be found here.

Green New Deal

Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has hit the ground running before she is even sworn in with a proposed Green New Deal agenda to address climate change. The proposal would create a new select committee that would be tasked with drafting a plan to move the United States to 100% renewable energy, and calls for cutting carbon emissions in the United States at a rate on par with the goals of the Paris Agreement. As discussed in our recent update on Rep. Pallone’s ascent to chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, there is support among some Democrats for reviving the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was dissolved when Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010. While the proposed Green New Deal has the support of many House Democrats, along with others like climate change activist and former Vice President Al Gore, it is not supported by Rep. Pallone, who has said he does not think it is necessary given the jurisdiction of existing committees.

Senate Committee Advances Nominees

On November 27 the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee advanced the nominations of Dr. Rita Baranwal to be Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, and of Mr. Bernie McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The committee favorably reported Dr. Baranwal by voice vote, and Mr. McNamee by a bipartisan vote of 13-10. The nominations now head to the Senate floor.

Department of Energy Funds Transformative Energy Projects

On November 15 the Department of Energy announced $98 million in funding for 40 new projects as part of OPEN 2018, the latest opening funding opportunity from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). These funds will support some of America’s top energy innovators’ R&D projects as they seek to develop technologies to transform the nation’s energy system. View the complete list of selected projects here.



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Thomas R. Burton, III

Member / Chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Tom Burton has helped to shape the clean energy industry by drawing on his passion for innovation. As a Mintz attorney, Tom counsels investors, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 100 companies. He also guides start-up organizations and accelerators to foster the next generation of energy leaders.

Sahir Surmeli

Member / Co-chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Sahir Surmeli is a Mintz business counselor who advises companies, boards, entrepreneurs, investment banks, and venture and private equity investors as they build and grow companies. He handles public offerings, 144A and private financings, acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic partnerships.