Having kicked impeachment to the Senate the second week of January, Democratic lawmakers used the rest of the month to roll out several policy priorities and introduce legislation they hope to message on going into 2020. Early in the month, the Energy and Commerce Committee released legislation that many are calling Democrats’ big 2020 energy policy push. The legislation focuses on funding and build-out of U.S. electric vehicle infrastructure. The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is continuing to develop on its own climate policy report, which experts still believe will come out in March. On the Natural Resources front, Committee Chairman Grijalva will continue to pressure the administration on its BLM move, and will look issues subpoenas to senior DOI officials at some point. Other members of will continue to push out legislation aimed enhancing environmental protections. The most industry-relevant of these is Rep. McEachin’s effort at reforming aspects of offshore spill remediation (The Offshore Accountability Act of 2020).
As stated in the constitution, Senators were required to be present six days a week for the entire month to oversee the impeachment trial of President Trump. This effectively grounded the Senate for the entire month in terms of legislation. Going forward, Senate Republicans will look to shift legislative goals to bipartisan wins that they can message on going into 2020. Leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have begun to release information on a comprehensive legislative package to update energy policy for the first time in more than a decade. While it won’t address carbon pricing or regulation, the package will draw from the 52 energy bills that passed the committee last year that address efficiency, storage and clean energy research programs. Lawmakers have heralded the boosts to research and development associated with many of the bills as critical to the innovation agenda to help in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. On the nomination front, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has stated its his intention to continue to churn out approved nominees.
Ending over three years of investigations and congressional inquiry into various matters, President Trump was fully acquitted of impeachment this week and will remain in office at least for the rest of his term. Impeachment drama aside, the president spent much of January finalizing several policy goals he has been touting since his election, including signing the USMCA trade deal and finalizing a phase 1 deal with China. On the energy and environment front, the Administration spent the month formulating legislation to accomplish its NEPA rewrite. That process is currently behind closed doors and the public will not likely see a bill for several months. The President and his cabinet are now aggressively preparing for 2020 and messaging heavily on their policy priorities, including their support for the U.S. petrochemical sector and American energy independence.