After what felt like one of the longest election seasons in history, Washington is preparing to welcome the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill adjusts to a dramatic shift in power as Democrats achieved an election night stunner by winning both Senate run-off elections in Georgia on January 5, sending Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to Washington and giving Democrats a 50-seat majority with the new incoming vice president casting any tie votes. In the House of Representatives, Republicans narrowed the Democrats’ majority in November but are still in the minority and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been reelected to serve as Speaker of the House.
What does this all mean for energy and sustainability?
Biden-Harris Presidential Transition
In the most immediate sense, the path has been cleared for the president-elect’s cabinet nominees. President-elect Biden has continued to round out his energy, environment, and climate teams, naming cabinet-level nominees as well as other roles that do not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
With Democrats holding the Senate majority, the president-elect’s nominees will have a much easier time than they would have had if Republicans were in the majority, although outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had previously pledged to bring all of the new president’s nominees to the full Senate for consideration.
As we approach the January 20 inauguration, we will learn more about how President-elect Biden intends to fill additional posts and we anticipate that we will know many of these new senior government officials.
Biden Agenda for Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Climate
The year-end omnibus legislation in the 116th Congress included the first significant energy legislation in more than a decade. The energy package focused on energy storage; advanced nuclear; carbon capture, utilization and storage; carbon removal; renewable energy; critical minerals and materials; fusion; industrial technologies; smart manufacturing; and grid modernization, among other areas. It also reauthorizes ARPA-E and the Weatherization Assistance program, and includes a range of measures aimed at boosting energy efficiency and brings administrative reforms to improve the Department of Energy. The omnibus also either made permanent or extended a number of clean energy and energy efficiency tax provision.
While the omnibus addressed many energy and sustainability policy and tax priorities, there will still be many more opportunities with the new Administration and the 117th Congress. This is especially true now that Democrats have taken the Senate majority and will almost certainly seek to pass a budget reconciliation bill which only needs a simple majority vote in the Senate versus the usual 60-vote threshold to advance legislation. Although a reconciliation bill cannot create new regulations, change existing regulations, create or instruct on new spending, it does provide significant leeway with regard to existing mandatory spending and tax policy.
Even with last year’s successful energy legislation, there will still be many opportunities in the 117th Congress:
ML Strategies would welcome the opportunity to discuss how the shift in power in Washington will impact the energy and sustainability sectors.