Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley
Despite a lack of clarity if there will be adequate support for such a move, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will move forward with his plan to bring the large climate and spending bill (known as “Build Back Better”) to the Senate floor as soon as December 13. The Senate continues to have discussion with its parliamentarian as to whether the entire bill is compliant with Senate rules for budget reconciliation.
Understanding that passage will become politically difficult in the new year, the White House and its allies in Congress have been pushing to get the package to the floor before the holiday break. Complicating this effort is that neither Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have given any public indication of whether or not they support the bill. Sen. Manchin has expressed concern with the overall spending level, as well as the climate and energy provisions in the bill. Without his vote to proceed, the bill cannot make its way to the Senate floor.
Adding additional curveballs to the discussion is that Congress is facing a December 3 deadline to continue funding the government and has until December 15 to raise the nation’s debt limit. The House and Senate are expected to pass another short-term funding resolution extending to January, but most Senate Republicans remain adamant that Sen. Schumer and the Democrats must raise the debt limit on their own. Efforts may be made to use procedural mechanisms to accomplish this procedure along with passage of the “Build Back Better” package.
OSHA Extends Comment Period on Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has extended the comment period for the COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard (ETS) to January 19, 2022. OSHA extended the comment period by 45 days to allow stakeholders additional time to review the ETS and collect information and data necessary for comment.
Given this announcement by OSHA, it is now clear there is no scenario where enforcement of the mandate could begin before the close of that comment period (assuming the courts lift the stay that is currently in effect). Additionally, there is now an effort that is gaining traction by Republicans in both the House and Senate to withhold support for a continuing resolution to fund the government unless it includes provisions to block enforcement of this potential mandate.
Interior Department Releases Long-Delayed Report on Federal Leasing
After months of delay, the Department of Interior released its report on the federal leasing program for oil and gas operations on federal lands and waters. This report was directed by President Biden at the beginning of his term via executive order, along with a direction to Interior to pause new leases on federal lands and waters. This pause has since been overturned by the courts, but the report wasn’t released until recently.
The current leasing program, the reports said, “fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers; inadequately accounts for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources; fosters speculation by oil and gas companies to the detriment of competition and American consumers; extends leasing into low potential lands that may have competing higher value uses; and leaves communities out of important conversations about how they want their public lands and waters managed.”
The report recommends the Bureau of Land Management’s future leasing program should avoid offering lands with low production potential and instead focus on areas that have moderate or high potential for oil and gas resources and which are in proximity to existing oil and gas infrastructure. Further, it states the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management should consider ending area-wide leasing, which the report argues costs the agency billions in lost revenues. The report also calls for raising the bonding rates that companies must pay to operate on federal lands.
The release of this report backs an effort to raise royalty fees for operations on federal land that is contained in the “Build Back Better” package. That legislation would increase royalties for new onshore oil, gas and coal leases to 18.75%, from the current 12.5%. Minimum bids for oil and gas leasing would rise to $10/acre, from $2/acre. New offshore oil and gas leases in shallow waters would see royalties increase to 14%, from 12.5%. These efforts have faced increased scrutiny by lawmakers and others as energy costs have continued to rise over the past few months.
The Energy Workforce and Technology Council will continue to advocate for access to domestic energy resources and opposes provisions that will raise the cost of production on federal lands and waters.
Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.