- Which party will control Congress in January remains an open question on the second day following the midterm election, but experts say there are some areas for potential bipartisan energy policy in a divided government scenario.
- In the first two years of President Joe Biden’s term, there have been “major debates” around improving access to critical minerals, incentives for domestic clean energy manufacturing and the siting of energy infrastructure like transmission lines and pipelines, said Scott Segal, partner at Bracewell and chair of the firm's policy resolution group. “It seems like all of those things could be the basis for bipartisan consideration,” he said in a Wednesday webinar focused on the election results.
- Some election analysts anticipate Republicans will take control of the House, opening a path to greater oversight and investigation into funds spent through the Inflation Reduction Act. The Biden administration must go “head down, full force ahead, to get the regulations out to implement the IRA,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Senate races in Arizona and Nevada are still being tallied and a runoff in Georgia may be required, while dozens of House seats remain uncalled on Wednesday morning. But energy policy experts say they see some potential for bipartisanship, regardless of how the balance of power shakes out.
“Removing obstacles to the clean energy revolution and to sufficient production of conventional sources of energy seem to be potential areas of common ground,” Segal said.
The Senate has already made attempts at finding common ground on transmission siting this year. In September, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was unable to find sufficient support for a proposal that would have advanced the delayed Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline and given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission more power to approve proposed transmission projects. Other proposals are being developed and Politico reports Democrats may make the issue a priority.
“Is it possible to pass that during the lame duck [session]?” Segal asked guests during the Bracewell webinar, referring to energy permitting reform.
“Anything's possible. It's very difficult though,” said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute.
“Lame duck sessions depend on both chambers,” he said. And “when you have a change in majority control, it's very hard to get much done because, obviously, the party coming into power has different ideas and different priorities.”
That said, Macchiarola added that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is essential to moving Appalachian gas to consumers, particularly with shortages in some areas of the country.
Likewise, Ross Hopper said permitting efforts are vital to the clean energy transition. “There is consensus that transmission is important ... so I am hopeful we’ll be able to find some common ground,” she said.
With a Republican-controlled House, the clean energy industry will be expecting stringent oversight of funds included in the Inflation Reduction Act and its $369 billion in incentives for renewables, energy storage, electric vehicles and more.
“So much of what has to happen in the implementation phase [of the IRA] obviously does not necessarily involve the Congress,” Ross Hopper said. Right now, the Biden administration needs to focus on putting out regulations to implement the new clean energy spending law, she said.
“I think that the administration has a big role to play in making sure that the rules are super clear, so that there's not a lot of areas for interpretation,” Ross Hopper said.
“The best thing that we can do as a clean energy space, to ensure the continuation of the IRA, is to have projects on the ground, jobs being created, tax revenue happening, local politicians seeing evidence of growth in their local communities,” she added.