Despite Democratic wins, Capitol Hill status quo remains -- Expect legislative stalemate on energy and environmental issues but increased regulatory activity


Despite recent polls showing a close popular vote, President Obama won a decisive electoral vote victory, winning all of the battleground states. Election night also saw Senate Democrats increase their margin in the chamber as Democratic candidates defied expectations and eked out victories in largely Republican states like North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, and Missouri. Despite these gains for Democrats, Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives, ensuring a divided Congress. Consequently, much of the partisan gridlock that has stalled legislation over the past year will continue. As the confetti from election night settles, the election does not present either party with a clear path to enacting its legislative agenda: indeed, the same players will be at the table as the Administration and Congress decide how to address a number of pressing fiscal and policy issues. The odds of substantive energy and environmental legislation in the next Congress is slim, but the Obama Administration—now freed from the restraints of re-election—is expected to utilize its executive powers and imprint its energy and environmental legacy through the regulatory process. Below is a more detailed look at the key energy and environmental issues to be addressed in the lame duck session of the 112th Congress and in the 113th Congress next year.

With election over, federal agencies expected to move forward with regulations -

Federal agencies—chiefly the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—face a backlog of regulations that were put on hold in advance of the election. Just as the Administration has been slow-walking its regulatory agenda leading up to the election, we expect it will continue to do so post-election in an effort to not rock the boat too soon after the Election Day victory. For example, the Administration would be unlikely to quickly approve the Keystone XL pipeline (though an approval is expected), as that would offend environmentalists who rallied to the President’s re-election. Also, the Administration may hold back on some regulatory initiatives, as it still needs to compromise with Republicans on the fiscal cliff, and does not necessarily want to antagonize them in advance of those negotiations.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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