Legislative Announcements


Congressional Committees Hold Markups on Several Appropriations Bills

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On July 12, the House Committee on Appropriations held a markup of its energy and water spending bill for FY2018. Despite Democratic objection, the committee advanced the bill, as amended, by a voice vote. The $37.6 billion bill represents a cut of $209 million, but is $3.65 billion more than the Trump Administration’s request.

Rep. Mike Simpson’s (R–Idaho) amendment to reduce funds collected by the Western Area Power Administration, from $185 million to $179 million, was adopted. Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D–Pa.) offered an amendment to restore approximately $1 billion to the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), which was rejected by a 22-30 vote. The FY18 bill now moves forward for consideration by the full House.

Additionally, on July 12, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies approved by voice vote a controversial FY18 spending bill for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill imposes significant budget cuts on the EPA, reducing funding for the agency to $7.5 billion from $8.06 billion, and Interior would receive $11.9 billion. Interior’s budget would be more than the Trump Administration’s proposal of $11.7 billion, but less than the $12.3 billion appropriated in the FY17 omnibus.

Ranking Member Betty McCollum (D–Minn.) noted that although $3.4 billion was allocated for wildfires, the legislation did not go as far as Rep. Mike Simpson’s (R–Idaho) wildfire disaster funding bill, H.R. 2862. NWPPA has long supported 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. Wildfire funding was among the issues NWPPA members raised with their delegation members during the Legislative Rally in April.

Senators Seek More Information on Cyber Protections at Nuclear Plants

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

The North American Reliability Corporation has alerted grid operators that hackers are using “phishing” e-mails with suspicious links and attachments to disrupt utility operations, though so far none have caused a disruption in service. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D–Wash,) said that the reports reveal that “our adversaries are trying to take advantage of the very real vulnerabilities of our energy infrastructure’s cyber defenses.”

On July 10, Sen. Ed Markey (D–Mass.) sent a letter to several agencies requesting more information about recent cyberattacks on nuclear plants and whether agencies have adequate funding to take the direct measures needed to address vulnerabilities in cyber-networks at U.S. nuclear power stations. He requested a response to his list of nine questions by August 10 as well as asking for a classified briefing on the matter.

McIntyre Nominated to Chair FERC, NRC Nominees Approved

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On July 14, the White House announced the long-expected nomination of Jones Day energy lawyer Kevin McIntyre to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Separately, on July 12, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees Annie Caputo and David Wright. Their nominations now move to the Senate floor, joining a slew of nominees awaiting confirmation. That backlog includes FERC nominees Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, who may be held pending committee action on the nominations of McIntyre and Rich Glick.

Other nominees awaiting floor action include David Bernhardt at Interior, Susan Bodine at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Dan Brouillette at the Department of Energy.

Treasury Reconsiders “Political Subdivision” Rule

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On July 7, the Treasury Department announced that it may amend or withdraw the Internal Revenue Service’s proposed “political subdivision” rule. The rule was never finalized, as it drew strong criticism from municipal bond issuers.

The rule was proposed last year by the Obama Administration to limit the types of entities that can issue tax-exempt bonds. The proposed rule’s narrower criteria threaten to prevent some joint action agencies and public utility districts from maintaining their tax-exempt bond issuing authority. Last year, the Municipal Bonds for America coalition and the American Public Power Association filed comments opposing this rule.

The Treasury Department’s review comes as it responds to President Trump’s Executive Order on April 21 requiring it to re-evaluate all “significant tax regulations” issued since January 2016 and propose changes to make them less burdensome. MBFA and APPA intend to resubmit comments opposing the rule before Treasury’s August 7 deadline.

NWPPA has a standing resolution supporting the continued ability of public power systems, as units of local government, to issue tax-exempt bonds.

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