Legislative Announcements

District Court Ruling Cancels BLM Leases in Sage-Grouse Habitat

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

A U.S. district court judge canceled 440 oil and gas leases in Montana and Wyoming, citing the federal government’s failure to follow sage-grouse habitat conservation plans.  In issuing the ruling, the federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to prioritize energy development outside of sage-grouse habitat and away from nesting areas as required in a 2015 sage-grouse conservation plan.  The plan was established by the Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with states, ranchers, and other non-governmental partners, and will preserve sagebrush landscape across the western United States in order to avert an Endangered Species Act listing of the sage-grouse.  The Department of the Interior is reviewing the court ruling and may appeal the decision.

Federal Agencies Prepare for Reopening

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

Federal agencies are making plans for a phased reopening, in response to federal guidelines for reopening the economy.  Department of Energy Secretary Brouillette, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler have begun informing agency staff about plans for a return to normal operations.  EPA is beginning the process with a reopening of offices in Seattle, Atlanta, and Kansas, and will continue in other locations according to local data and conditions.  Similarly, the Department of the Interior has outlined plans for employees to return in stages as states begin to transition out of stay-at-home orders and allow workplaces to reopen.  In addition, Secretary Bernhardt has begun authorizing the reopening of many National Park Service units.  Upon reopening, several National Parks are facing overcrowding and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is threatening an investigation of the Department’s decision to reopen in the absence of safeguards to protect public health.

Wright, Hanson Confirmed to NRC

Update provided by Meguire Whitney

On May 21, the Senate voted to confirm David Wright and Chris Hanson to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Wright was re-appointed to a new five-year term, and Hanson – a former Department of Energy and Capitol Hill staffer – will serve a term of four years.  The confirmations return the agency to a full five-member complement and were applauded by the Nuclear Energy Institute.

House Passes the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act

Update provided by Nicole Case

By a vote of 417-1, the House passed an act to bring flexibility to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program – H.R. 7010- in order to meet the needs of small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Loans under this program are forgiven to the extent the loan proceeds are spent on wages or delineated fixed expenses such as utility bills, rent or mortgage payments. This bill reduces the amount of loan proceeds that must be spent on wages from 75 percent to 60 percent, freeing up proceeds to be spent on other fixed expenses. A Senate version of the bill has been introduced – S. 3833 – and does not reduce the percentage of proceeds that must be spent on wages.

The U.S. Congress continues to work on legislation to address the COVID-19 crisis. NWPPA will monitor federal action, report activity, and advocate for its member utilities on this and similar legislation.

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