The Senate returned from Easter recess in early April with a full plate. A primary focus has been internal negotiations over the Administration’s infrastructure push, the American Jobs Plan, and the pay-for vehicle, the Made in America Tax Plan. The Senate Energy Committee held a hearing on Interior’s leasing program on Tuesday, with Western Energy Alliance’s Kathleen Sgamma, along with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, testifying on the impacts the leasing ban has had on the industry in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic slump. On the methane front, the Senate also approved a bill authorizing use of the Congressional Review Act to roll back Trump-era methane regulations. The direct federal regulation of methane has been endorsed by Senate Democrats along with Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME).
The House returned from Easter recess to a bevy of hearings examining climate and green issues, focusing on legislation aimed at furthering Democratic priorities in both areas. The CLEAN Future act was reviewed in several committees, and the Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing to mark-up several Democratic bills dealing with bonding, methane, and emissions reporting for the industry, as well as additional hearings on a variety of green-focused legislation. Lingering questions as we move into the summer include whether the Democratic members of Texas and other pockets of moderates will support the Administration’s goals to overhaul the tax code and spend trillions on infrastructure improvements and social programs.
Last month marked an additional flurry of agency actions as well as continued efforts from the White House to socialize several important legislative priorities as we move into summer. Most consequentially, the Interior Department said it will continue its pause on new oil and gas lease sales through the end of June, citing the “need for further review of the laws surrounding the process.” As a consequence, Interior will not be holding its planned June lease sale. Newly confirmed Interior Secretary Haaland also issued two Secretarial Orders; the first, SO 3399, establishes a Climate Task Force to coordinate work across the Department, as well as directs agencies to utilize NEPA in an effort to restore ‘transparency and integrity’ to decisions-making processes. The second, SO 3398, revokes a series of Trump-era orders, including M-37062, an opinion that concluded that the Interior Secretary must promulgate a National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program consisting of a 5-year lease schedule with at least two lease sales during the five year plan. Interior also further delayed several Trump-era orders, including one release over 28 millions of BLM land in Alaska.