As Congress returns to Washington next week, what is the future of energy efficiency and tax credit measures in the Senate? During today's premiere episode of The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Nick Juliano discusses the Senate's plans to consider the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill and a tax extenders package that includes energy tax credits. Juliano also highlights the stories capturing his interest heading into Congress' next work period.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the premiere of The Cutting Edge. Driving the energy conversation as Congress returns to Washington: the Senate's consideration of the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. E&E Daily's Nick Juliano joins me.
Nick, you've been covering some attempts to use Keystone to potentially derail this legislation. Does this have any legs?
Nick Juliano: It might. It's all a little uncertain, at this point. The goal isn't necessarily to derail the legislation. Nobody -- not many people have much against Shaheen-Portman, in and of itself; it's just that this is an opportunity to try and force a vote on what's been one of the most contentious issues of the last few years, here. So, things are still in flux. As of now, it sounds like they still want to try and bring Shaheen-Portman to the floor, but no agreement has been made yet on what the -- how that's going to all sort of work.
Monica Trauzzi: And this is a reintroduced version of the bill, which includes changes from the original. Will it pass? And if it does, could it potentially open the door for some other energy policy measures to move through?
Nick Juliano: Uh-huh. Again, I mean, if this was just about the Shaheen-Portman bill, in and of itself, it probably would've passed years ago on a unanimous ... consent vote. The bill itself is -- it does a lot of things, fairly modestly, to promote efficiency in a variety of ways. It could -- the sort of goal of some lawmakers has been to try and move away from the comprehensive "big bill" approach that we saw with cap and trade, that we saw with the 2007, 2005 energy bills, to these more sort of rifle-shot approaches: try and be a little bit narrow or to build things in steps. So -- but again, it's the broader sort of process wars, especially in the Senate, that is really sort of holding things up.
Monica Trauzzi: So we shouldn't necessarily hold our breath for more energy legislation?
Nick Juliano: I mean, it's probably not a good idea to hold your breath waiting for any legislation out of this Congress, these days.
Monica Trauzzi: Right. So, as members return to Washington, what else are you going to be keeping your eyes on? What has your attention?
Nick Juliano: It's going to be a busy few weeks ahead. They're going to be coming back on Monday; they're here through -- basically through -- until Memorial Day. There's -- in addition to Shaheen-Portman, there's a possibility that they do WRDA -- the water infrastructure bill. The appropriations committees are going to be continuing doing their work, as they put together the spending bills for next year.
The situation in Ukraine, obviously, is still high on the radar; there's discussion of possible additional sanctions. Senator Corker, the top Republican on Foreign Relations, just before I came in here put out a statement that said we should sanction Russia's energy companies; really try and weaken the grip that they have because of all of the oil and gas they supply to the region. So, all of those -- plus, obviously, the coming elections and attempts to sell your message for -- using the tools that you have in Congress ...
Monica Trauzzi: And Majority Leader Reid has indicated that tax extenders will be considered soon, as well. What's the latest on a timeline for that?
Nick Juliano: I'm hearing maybe the second week of May. Nothing's really set in stone. As with everything, plans are still sort of in flux, but getting those done are a big priority for Reid; a huge priority for Senator Wyden, who's now the new chairman of the Finance Committee. He said, "Let's do these; let's pass these one last time and then give ourselves some breathing room to move on comprehensive tax reform."
Monica Trauzzi: And again, there, we have the wind industry and the nuclear industry engaging in this debate over the merits of the PTC. In particular, Exelon has been involved in this. Is that discussion -- that debate between the two industries -- permeating the discussion on the Hill?
Nick Juliano: Yeah, very much so. I mean, that's really where the sort of argument over whether or not the PTC should be continued is; that's where a lot of the debate is focusing. And Exelon's argument is essentially -- because the PTC provides a credit for every kilowatt-hour that you produce, at times when prices are already low, you can essentially -- if you're a wind farm operator, you can pay somebody to take your electricity.
Exelon operates a big nuclear fleet. Those are plants that are tough to turn on and turn off very quickly; they're saying it's causing some disruption to their business. AWEA, the wind industry association, says they've overstated that case; the negative pricing doesn't happen all that much, and they basically say, "Prices are going down; that's a good thing for consumers." So, everyone's put out their dueling reports and studies, and we're going to be watching that for a while.
Monica Trauzzi: Can you handicap the future of that tax extension?
Nick Juliano: It's tough. I mean, it's probably the toughest landscape it's faced for a while. The House has not shown much appetite to move quickly on this. Republicans have been more willing to criticize it than they have in the past. It still certainly has bipartisan support, to be sure. It's a much different situation than -- 2012 was the last time we saw this extended, and it got extended because it rode along with the fiscal cliff that year. There's no fiscal cliff looming at the end of this year, so it's a much bigger question mark than it's been.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, Nick. Thanks for coming on.
Nick Juliano: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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