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House passes Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, creating opportunity for Senate energy bill

September 25, 2020

by Susan Partain
APPA News
September 25, 2020

On September 24, the House passed H.R. 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, by a vote of 220-185. The $135 billion package includes several clean energy and workforce bills from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Natural Resources Committee, and Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The bill would authorize major investments in Department of Energy (DOE) research and development programs, including for wind, solar, geothermal, carbon capture, and hydropower. The bill also includes several energy efficiency provisions from the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitive Act of 2019 (H.R. 3962), which the American Public Power Association supports.

H.R. 4447 also incorporates a variety of “energy innovation” bills, including H.R. 2986, the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act, which would direct DOE to establish a competitive grant program, for which public power utilities would be eligible, for the demonstration of energy storage technology. APPA supports the BEST Act.

Some provisions of concern to public power utilities include additions of “must consider” provisions to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider changes to Order 1000, and creation of a voluntary, streamlined process for local permitting and inspection of distributed energy resources, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. These provisions are not included in the Senate energy bill.

Prior to final passage, the House voted to adopt two en bloc amendments and an amendment from Representative Debra Haaland (D-NM).

The amendment from Haaland would increase authorizations for renewables by 50% and add an authorization for total funding for research, development, demonstration, and commercialization for the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Many of the adopted en bloc amendments relate to funding or authorizing specific activities at DOE, including new research and development and wildfire mitigation. For the former, one specific amendment would support research and development on underground transmission and distribution lines, including methods for lowering costs, ways to increase resiliency, and wireless sensors to detect degradation and faults. For the latter, one such activity would be for the DOE to create a geospatial map of wildfire risk around utility infrastructure to improve planning for grid hardening, vegetation management, and emergency access points.

Reactions around Washington

In comments made on the House floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) noted that the bill, “represents a significant investment in clean energy infrastructure and job-creation. In addition to investing in clean energy production, distribution, and storage, this legislation sets new energy efficiency standards for buildings and provides funding for homes, schools, manufacturing facilities, and public buildings to upgrade and improve their energy efficiency. It makes bold investments in wind and solar, in advanced nuclear technologies, and in helping to decarbonize the fossil-fuel sector.”

On Monday, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy in opposition to H.R. 4447, saying the bill “would implement a top-down approach that would undermine the Administration’s deregulatory agenda and empower the government to select favored solutions while reinstating big-government policies and programs.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) noted in a meeting Monday about the bill that “the goal here is to come up with a consensus bill with the Senate” and said that he expects some of the provisions that House Republicans do not like will be removed should the bill go to conference.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) developed a bipartisan energy innovation bill, the American Energy Innovation Act, which was unable to clear a procedural hurdle in early March. Since then, one of the major holdups, disagreements over the regulation of hydrofluorocarbons, has been resolved by a bipartisan group of senators. Sen. Murkowski is pushing for the bill to be brought up for a vote before the end of the year, before she ends her term as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. APPA supports the American Energy Innovation Act, which is more focused legislation with bipartisan Senate support.

However, given the limited legislative calendar and the likelihood of the Senate considering a Supreme Court nominee, the path forward for the American Energy Innovation Act and the opportunity to conference with the House bill is unclear. Further, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has placed a legislative hold on the bill, which could prevent it from receiving floor consideration.

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