Energy Legislation: What are the Prospects?

Congress has a full legislative agenda ahead of them as they move into the second half of Trump’s first year in office. It’s important to be aware of major legislation that has the potential to drastically influence the energy sector, like ENRA, but it is just as important to be aware of how seemingly unrelated legislation, like tax reform or infrastructure bills, may affect the industry, too. Here are the pieces of legislation I’m currently keeping an eye on:

  1. The Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA): Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell have put forward a broad bill that covers a wide range of energy policy issues, including energy efficiency, workforce development, cyber security, and LNG exports. Senator Murkowski is pushing hard for this bipartisan bill to get Senate floor consideration in the coming weeks. While it is possible, the bill does not have a strong following and the prospects in the Senate are uncertain for short term consideration. The bill does have a better chance of being considered in the fall.
  2. House Energy bills: The House has been advancing a series of narrow bills in the energy space in recent weeks, including legislation on hydropower, cross-border pipelines, and nuclear waste. If the Senate does act on the Murkowski/Cantwell bill, these House pieces are likely to be considered as a part of the House-Senate negotiation aimed at finding a compromise for the energy-related legislative package that can be approved and sent to the President.
  3. Tax reform: The time line for tax reform has stretched out because of the stalled health care bill and internal divisions among Republicans about which direction to head on taxes. No decisions have been made, but there is a chance that the tax bill will include provisions that impact the energy sector. For example, the investment tax credits for renewable power may come under fire from some Republicans. Other provisions, like the tax breaks for oil and gas interests, may be targeted by Democrats. There are also proposals to overhaul energy taxes in a way that would be technology neutral. Given the competing demands and the current direction of the package, the most likely path is the status quo.
  4. Infrastructure: The infrastructure bill is also delayed given the slower than expected pace of other legislation. While the parameters of this bill appear to be getting smaller, not bigger, there is still a strong possibility that the legislation will provide regulatory and permitting relief that would benefit the energy sector. This bill is not likely to move ahead until 2018.

Energy is unlikely to be a focal point of the House or the Senate for the remainder of the year, but there are still a number of opportunities for statutory changes that will impact the industry.

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