Legislative Announcements

 


Zinke Orders an “Aggressive” Approach to Fire Prevention

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On September 12, in response to several fires occurring throughout the West, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent a memo to federal land managers, directing them to “think about fire in a new and aggressive way.” Zinke focused on fuel management of trees and vegetation, along with the preservation of fire roads. Zinke requested that all land managers, throughout the Department of Interior and not just staff dedicated to fire issues, participate in meeting land-management objectives.

Furthermore, land managers are expected to look for opportunities to work with agencies, state and local governments, tribes, and private landowners to “maximize resources.” Program officials at the DOI are required to give appropriate analyses while recognizing “resource needs and data gaps.” The National Interagency Fire Center reported that wildfires have burned over 8.1 million acres nationally this year.

NWPPA supports swift enactment of legislation, or regulatory action, to establish wildfire funding mechanisms to ensure adequate and equitable funding to prevent and fight major forest fires.


House Energy & Commerce Panel Holds Hearing on Grid Resiliency

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On September 14, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy held the first part of a hearing on grid “resiliency” and the Department of Energy’s electricity markets and grid reliability study. The hearing featured Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC Neil Chatterjee, DOE Electricity Chief Pat Hoffman, and Chairman of the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation Gerry Cauley. Most of the witnesses’ testimony and members’ questions focused on the grid’s ability to withstand and respond to outage events during extreme weather events such as Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

The hearing was brief due to scheduled votes, but other questions included cybersecurity and supply chain vulnerability – Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) indicated he was working on legislation to provide additional federal capabilities in that regard – as well as FERC’s ongoing inquiry into price formation and the role of public policy in wholesale markets.


Electricity Advisory Committee Holds Meeting

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On September 13 and 14, the Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee met in Arlington, Va., in order to hear presentations on cybersecurity, grid resiliency, modern grid-networked measurement and monitoring, and the energy sector’s cybersecurity multiyear plan. The meeting also included an update on programs and initiatives from the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry installed new members to the board of the Electricity Advisory Committee prior to this meeting, including a representative from the public power community, and reduced the number of board members to 24 from 32 for the 2016-2017 term. The advisory board meets three times a year to work on a broad array of power-related issues.


Senate Finance Committee Kicks Off Debate on Tax Reform

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On September 14, the Senate Finance Committee held its first hearing this Congress to consider possible reforms to the tax code, focusing particularly on policies that affect individual tax filers. In his opening remarks, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asserted his independence from the Trump Administration and the House of Representatives, saying that he was interested in developing a tax reform plan that could pass the committee and that he is not wedded to any other plan that has been or may be produced. Citing bipartisan agreement on expanding the standard deduction, he encouraged Democrats to come to the table with an open mind. Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that tax reform should not advantage wealthy individuals at the expense of lower income households, and he argued that tax reform should proceed in the Senate under “regular order” as opposed to budget reconciliation that could allow Republicans to pass a bill without any Democratic support.

The committee heard from Lily Batchelder, law professor and former Democratic staffer to the committee; Alex Brill and Ramesh Ponnuru, fellows at the conservative American Enterprise Institute; and Iona Harrison, representing the centrist National Association of Realtors. The witness testimony and subsequent Q&A highlighted expected ideological differences, the conservative witnesses calling for more simplification and the Democratic witness urging reforms that would enhance the progressivity of the code. The hearing also revealed the complexity of making changes to the code and the far-reaching consequences changes could have on the economy. The broad effects of expanding the child tax credit and repealing the mortgage interest deduction were of particular interest to senators.

The municipal bond interest deduction was not mentioned directly, though Brill repeatedly urged the panel to simplify the code by removing deductions to eliminate economic “inefficiencies.” This argument has been used by some conservative economists and the Senate Republican Policy Committee to criticize the municipal bond exemption.

NWPPA opposes any proposals that would unduly restrict, adversely alter, or eliminate public power’s use of tax‐exempt bonds to serve its communities or change the ability of certain investors to claim the exemption.


 

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