Legislative Announcements

Two Weeks Before Election, No COVID-19 Deal Emerges

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) set a deadline of October 20 for reaching a COVID-19 relief deal with the White House, but as the day came and went with no agreement, the speaker insisted she would keep working toward a package the House could support. For months, she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have negotiated over details of a potential aid package that would potentially provide health and economic relief in the wake of the pandemic. The two reported more progress in discussions on October 21. However, both sides acknowledge that a final aid package may not be voted on until after the November 3 election, which could imperil its passage.

Meanwhile, the Senate held votes on legislation to extend the Paycheck Protection Program and a $500 billion aid package (similar to a package that failed to advance in September) that focuses on unemployment benefits, school funding, and more money for virus testing, tracing, and vaccine development and distribution. Both measures were blocked by Democrats who said the bills were inadequate to meet existing needs. Regarding a potential deal being made by Mnuchin and Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated that he would consider any deal reached by the White House and House Democrats, but has not committed to bringing any such deal to the Senate floor for a vote and has reportedly pressured the White House not to agree to a deal before the election. McConnell also remains steadfastly focused on confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and has said that a coronavirus deal must not interfere with that schedule.

FERC Signals Openness to Carbon Pricing, Muddles PJM Capacity Auction

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

At its monthly meeting on October 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signaled openness to approve tariffs that include a price on carbon in RTO markets as a way to accommodate state emissions-reduction policies. The agency’s policy statement would not directly implement carbon pricing, but opens the door for regional RTOs to propose policies that do.

Separately, FERC adopted part of the capacity market filing for PJM Interconnection implementing a minimum offer price rule, but remanding other parts that will likely delay the region’s capacity market auction until at least June 2021. Commissioner Rich Glick also raised alarm bells about a footnote in the decision that could suggest FERC is prepared to subject state-level auctions to a price floor, something that would further hamper states from enacting policies that benefit certain resources they may want to favor for policy reasons, such as being emissions-free.

Federal Aid Okayed for California after President Reverses Course

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On October 16, President Trump exercised his presidential powers and reversed a denial of federal disaster aid for California. The administration had initially rejected California Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D-Calif.) request for a “major disaster” designation stemming from wildfire damage, with leadership from the Federal Emergency Management Agency stating many individuals and households were adequately insured, and that the damage assessments conducted with state and local officials showed that damages “were not of such severity and magnitude” to merit a federal disaster declaration. In reversing the decision, Trump bypassed a more formal appeals process in which governors file a written appeal for consideration and teams from FEMA and the Office of Management and Budget review the request.

House Democrats Release Oceans Policy Bill

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

House Democrats, led by Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva, released a sweeping ocean policy bill that would, among other things, create a goal of 25 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, and would provide grants for projects that sequester carbon dioxide. The bill offers a suggestion of what Democrats might pursue if they win a unified government after the election and is not expected to pass with Republican support.

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