President Biden has talked at length about the need to move toward more renewable energy sources. While some of his first acts as president walk that talk, some do not and actually continue what was in place under the Trump Administration.
In the fifth episode of Insider Insights: 100 Days of Biden, Kim Pizzingrilli, co-chair of Buchanan's Energy team and the chair of the firm's Government Relations Practice Group in Pennsylvania, is joined by Ed Hild, principal in Buchanan’s Federal Government Relations practice in Washington, D.C.
In this episode, Kim and Ed cover:
- The contrast between President Biden and former President Trump when it comes to energy policy and approach.
- The surprising moves (or lack thereof) made by President Biden on energy policy.
- What the future of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) looks like.
- What exactly happened with the energy catastrophe in Texas.
- The future of the Green New Deal.
- How Senators Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin can play a critical role in shaping energy policy for decades in the next two years.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Welcome to Insider Insights: 100 Days of Biden, a podcast from Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. I'm your host today, Kim Pizzingrilli, Co-Chair of our firm's Energy industry team and the chair of our Government Relations Practice Group here in Pennsylvania. Today, I'm fortunate to welcome to the podcast someone who has spent more than two decades on Capitol Hill, my colleague and a principal in Buchanan's Federal Government Relations practice in Washington D.C., Ed Hild. Before joining Buchanan, Ed spent time as Chief of Staff for Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and as legislative assistant, legislative director and deputy chief of staff for former Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico. In our government relations work, Ed and I have developed a deep expertise in the energy space, including helping navigate and shape energy policy for our clients at both the state and federal levels.
Ed, welcome to the podcast today.
Ed Hild: Thank you, Kim. It's a pleasure to be joining you today.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Now when it comes to the White House’s approach to energy, there's a stark difference between President Biden and former President Trump. In his very first days in office, President Biden immediately worked to undo a handful of energy policies and agreements that his predecessor made. Ed let's start off with a broad question. What are the biggest differences in approach to energy policy between President Biden and former President Trump?
Ed Hild: Well, I really think it's what President Biden is focusing on versus what former President Trump focused on. And the difference is fairly stark. President Biden is promoting renewable energy, whereas former President Trump promoted oil and gas production.
Kim Pizzingrilli: As the Democrats tend to push more strongly for renewable energy, have you been surprised at steps the Biden administration has already taken on a few positions that you might not expect relating to pipelines?
Ed Hild: Absolutely. There's one in particular that was surprising, particularly in light of all of the statements that President Biden made during the campaign. One of his first acts was to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, which itself wasn’t totally surprising and was in line with what he promised on the campaign trail. Interestingly, though, there is a case pending before the US Supreme Court that involves the Natural Gas Act and permitting of natural gas pipelines and the rights of eminent domain so that the pipeline can be built. Former President Trump's administration took the position of supporting the pipeline company’s appeal to the Supreme Court. And it would have been natural, based upon some of President Biden statements, the Keystone XL pipeline, etc., to take the opposite position. But instead, President Biden has continued the position of President Trump and supporting the position of the natural gas pipeline company.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Let's shift to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission now. Richard Glick was nominated to the FERC by President Trump in 2017 and confirmed by the Senate in November of that same year. Earlier this year, on January 21st, Chairman Glick was named by President Biden to head up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. What are some of his priorities as head of FERC, and how will that help shape the energy industry?
Ed Hild: Chairman Glick has been fairly clear on his priorities in his public statements. He has said that transmission reform is a key issue for him. In addition, his priorities also include reassessing the capacity markets and lowering the barriers for clean energy in the regulated market, something that obviously FERC is at the forefront. And also, something that's been a long-time passion for Chairman Glick has been, when FERC is permitting natural gas facilities, that FERC takes into account the impact of climate change. That is evident from last month’s FERC business meeting where they entered into notice of information to change the rules regarding how FERC permits natural gas facilities and update those rules to take into account climate change and other issues.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Certainly, the tragic situation in Texas took up a lot of headlines last month. What exactly happened there, and is there anything President Biden can do to prevent that in the future? Or is that energy unreliability a state-specific issue?
Ed Hild: That's simply a fact that the energy infrastructure in Texas was not prepared for a winter storm of that magnitude. Therefore, when that winter storm came through, we have all seen the results of that and they were not good. Obviously, Texas is a little bit different in that Texas is state-regulated, and it’s only Texas. They're not part of an interstate transmission, so FERC does at the federal level have limited jurisdiction over changes in Texas, but the Feds can always take action. The question is, should they take action in this case? I think that since FERC is more limited, it would fall to Congress to decide if they want to put mandates in place about what infrastructure must and must not do. And I think that becomes a much more complicated question and unlikely to happen anytime in the near future.
Kim Pizzingrilli: It wouldn't be a discussion about energy without talking about the Green New Deal. Ed, we know that the bill as proposed will not pass this current Senate. But what does the future of this polarizing piece of legislation look like?
Ed Hild: The future can be described in three words – Senator Joe Manchin. Senator Manchin has been fairly explicit that he does not believe mandates are the answer to achieving some of the climate goals that are out there. The House bill, in its current form, would entail a number of mandates. And if you move away from mandates, it's going to become more bipartisan. And really, it puts Joe Manchin and some of the others in the Senate in the driver's seat to shape that policy.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Well, let's move to that area. Speaking of Congress, Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Lisa Murkowski have tons of newfound power in The Capitol with an evenly split Senate. Both represent energy-rich states where jobs and natural gas are critical. How do you think these two senators will leverage this power in Washington?
Ed Hild: I know that what they're going to do is they're going to put West Virginia and Alaska first and foremost as they proceed with shaping that legislation. As an example, the former nominee for the Office of Management and Budget that did withdraw was in talks with Senator Murkowski to see if Senator Murkowski wouldn't be able to support her nomination. After, Senator Manchin came out in opposition. And as part of those discussions, Senator Murkowski was talking about, “OK, what are some things that the administration might be able to do on the energy and natural resources front on a regulatory basis to soften some of the impact on Alaska?” So, I think that is an example of how both of those senators are going to approach this. They're going to look at the legislation and say, “Do we need to create new provisions that are going to be targeted towards West Virginia and Alaska? Or do we shape these provisions, so that they are more favorable to our respective states?”
If you're talking about West Virginia, obviously coal, despite where coal is these days, is still an extremely important part of West Virginia. In that case, does Senator Manchin say we're going to do carbon capture? Carbon capture is going to have to be focused in West Virginia. If we're in a situation where he's the 50th vote to let Vice President Kamala Harris break the tie, I suspect that he will find success in obtaining the provisions that he wants on behalf of West Virginia.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Finally, Ed, energy policy impacts more than just the energy industry itself. It touches on transportation, infrastructure, trade and so much more. With a Democrat in the White House and a slim blue edge in Congress, are there any other industries to keep an extra close eye on in terms of how a new approach to energy policy may affect them?
Ed Hild: I think that the first part of the answer is all industries and sectors have the potential to be impacted. There's been a lot of discussion about how we're going to do a $2-$4 trillion green infrastructure package. That's a pretty large price tag. So, the question becomes, how do you pay for it? One of the early ideas that has been put out there that seems to be gaining traction, particularly within the Democratic caucus, is the corporate tax rate currently at 21% and raising that to 28% to generate revenue to pay for part of that package. Obviously raising the corporate tax rate would affect industries across the board. More specifically, I think what it's going to come down to – is the definition of what infrastructure is will be expanded. Traditionally, when we talk infrastructure, we think roads, airports, trains, dams, construction, those kinds of things. But in this expanded definition of what infrastructure is, I think you're going to see the focus being on green and how we do “green things.” That could reach into residential home construction, commercial construction for new buildings, manufacturing. There's already been a big push at the Department of Energy to work on energy-efficient manufacturing. Just across the board, it's going to be again to circle back to the very first question. The biggest difference between this administration and the previous administration will be what they focus on, and that is going to be a green focus.
Kim Pizzingrilli: Clearly there's a lot to talk about here, and I think we've only scratched the surface. There will be plenty more to come in the energy industry over the next four years, that's for sure.
Ed, I appreciate you joining me today and sharing just some of your insights. Remember to hear the latest from Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney, attorneys and government relations pros on what to expect under the Biden administration. Please subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen in. Until next time, I'm Kim Pizzingrilli with my colleague at Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney, Ed Hild. Thanks for listening to Insider Insights: 100 Days of Biden.