This week, the Senate is debating S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act, on the floor. The bill, introduced by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and passed by the committee on a decisive 18-4 vote, is expected gain broad support from both sides of the aisle. There is a lot to like in the bill, including a wide range of measures on energy efficiency and improvements to the licensing process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. The debate on S. 2012 comes on the heels of successful passage of legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Senate at the end of 2015. (The House passed a similar TSCA reform bill earlier in the year by a 398-1 vote, and the two bills await a conference.)
For years, Washington earned a well-deserved reputation for gridlock and an inability to solve problems. But these two bills, much like the recent successes on tax, infrastructure and trade, are a sign that the gridlock may be starting to ease. And if that’s the case, there are no shortage of energy and environmental issues that manufacturers would like some real, bipartisan solutions on. We talk about a lot of these in the our “Competing to Win” platform document, unveiled today by NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons as he kicked off this year’s State of Manufacturing Tour.
First and foremost is the recently-enacted EPA ozone regulation. The strict new standard the EPA arrived at in October 2015 now places areas that had worked for years to improve their ozone levels back into a “no-grow zone,” which could threaten manufacturers’ ability to get permits to build new facilities, expand existing facilities or improve the operations already in place. At a time when the economy is showing signs of tension, manufacturers do not need yet another hurdle to creating jobs, particularly when the old standard is just now being implemented and leading to substantial improvements to ozone levels. Manufacturers need relief from most punitive elements of the 2015 ozone standard, either through a delay in implementation or other legislative remedy.
Next is regulatory reform. It’s no secret that the energy sector, which helped drive the economic recovery over the past five years, is facing major headwinds. And yet, the response they seem to be getting from this administration is a barrage of even more new regulations that make it less economic to develop energy. (This on top of the countless regulations enacted over the past few years that already made things more expensive.) This year’s slate of bad news includes leasing moratoria, methane regulations, a well control rule and an alphabet soup of regulations from the Department of Energy on the efficiency of a wide range of goods that go beyond what manufacturers can actually achieve. And that’s before the slate of regulation-forcing settlement agreements and midnight regulations that could be hanging out there in 2016. Manufacturers desperately need Congress to step in and make some real changes to the way regulations are issued. We’re not against regulation, but there needs to be some balance—and on energy and environment, there hasn’t been much.
Finally, greenhouse gases (GHGs). Manufacturers are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency and sustainability. We believe the Paris agreement was a very positive step and a good sign that the world is finally figuring out how to come together on this issue. That said, we’ve been forced to oppose the EPA’s recently enacted Clean Power Plan in court because it threatens the reliability and price of energy that manufacturers depend on. Congress has tried and failed on multiple occasions to either legislate a solution or fix the flaws in some of the EPA rules. A great deal of the problem is the sharp battle lines that have been drawn across Congress on the issue of climate change. We hope Congress figures out a way to ease the pain of the Clean Power Plan and works to find a solution that allows us to continue reducing GHG emissions—over the past decade, we’ve reduced more than any other nation on earth—while preserving manufacturers’ competitiveness.
These are some of the issues we’re focused on in 2016. Manufacturers hope the recent progress Congress has made is a sign of good things to come.