Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said last week that it’s unlikely Congress will approve a comprehensive energy bill either this year or next.
Electric utilities, including bond-issuing public power entities, have been closely watching climate-change legislation in Congress, which could provide them with an adjustment period to meet emissions-reduction requirements.
Market participants have worried that, without congressional action on a climate bill, the Environmental Protection Agency could start setting new emissions rules as early as next year, and that those requirements could put a strain on public power entities and their financial health.
In addition, at least one pending comprehensive energy bill contains several bond-related provisions.
Bingaman, a key energy policymaker, made the remarks at a summit here Wednesday that was hosted by Reuters and in a video interview with the news agency.
“I think, assuming that the election goes as most pundits say it will, and Republicans gain support both in the House and the Senate and perhaps gain a majority” in one or both chambers, “it’s less likely in the next couple of years that we’ll be able to pass comprehensive energy legislation,” Bingaman said in the interview. “Perhaps even less likely than it was in this Congress.”
Last Tuesday, the senator and fellow New Mexico Democrat Sen. Tom Udall introduced legislation that focused on creating a “renewable electricity standard” instead of a more sweeping measure that would create a system of cap and trade.
The proposal would set targets for electric utilities between 2012 and 2039. It would require electric utilities to eventually produce at least 11% of their power from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass, and allow them to meet the rest of a 15% renewable-energy minimum through energy-efficiency improvements.
Bingaman has been pushing for years for legislation that would require electrical utilities to produce a certain amount of their power from renewable sources.
A spokesman for the senator confirmed Monday that he is predicting a delay for the cap-and-trade emissions legislation, but stressed that Bingaman is “continuing to push other legislation that he believes can get done.”
At least one other key lawmaker, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has pushed for the type of overhaul that Bingaman said is unlikely to succeed for the next two years.
Kerry and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., co-sponsored an energy and climate-change bill this year that would set emission allowances, create a $3 billion tax-credit bond program for natural gas vehicles, allow private-activity bond financing for some nuclear power facilities, expand a nuclear loan guarantee program, and provide $2 billion of competitive transportation grants.
“I know that in an election year, some in the Senate are tempted to settle for an 'energy-only’ bill, then go home and declare victory,” Kerry said in June at a League of Conservation Voters event here. “That would be a profound mistake because our economy is still fragile, and our bill means jobs — at a time the economy needs just that.”
A spokeswoman for Kerry did not respond to a request for comment on Bingaman’s statement.
However, the prediction that Bingaman made last week comes as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is reportedly favoring a piecemeal approach instead of comprehensive energy and climate legislation.