Regan, McCarthy, Wyden talk revival of BBB
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., all said today that they hope energy elements of the Build Back Better initiative can be revived this spring in a reconciliation bill.
Regan, McCarthy and Wyden all spoke at the policy forum of the American Council on Renewable Energy, an organization that focuses on finance, policy and technology to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy, particularly in solar, wind and electricity.
ACORE does not focus on renewable fuels and none of the speakers mentioned renewable fuels or conservation programs as part of the discussion, but they gave an indication of the future of the reconciliation bill that could affect both.
Interviewed on stage by Carol Browner, the EPA administrator in the Clinton administration, Regan said that if Congress would pass the tax credits for items such as wind, solar and clean energy storage that were in the Build Back Better proposal, the United States would be as competitive as any country in the world.
In the interview, Regan said, “We are EPA but first and foremost we are a public health agency.”
And that public health agenda, Regan said, means emphasizing clean energy and also keeping the United States globally competitive.
The stock market, Regan said, wants “certainty about what long-term investments look like.”
Regan said he hopes EPA can provide the power industry with “a suite of regulations” delivered close together to give investors “the best chance at determining where their long term investments should go.”
Regan also noted that every division of EPA must now incorporate environmental justice into its programs. Most of the communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution are black, brown and tribal, he said.
In her speech, McCarthy said that President Biden is not giving up on the elements in the Build Back Better proposal even though it appears stalemated due to the opposition of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.
McCarthy said it is important to develop clean energy because the war in Ukraine shows “how easy it is for autocrats to use fossil fuels as weapons.”
McCarthy blamed Russian President Putin for the hikes that are causing American families to feel pain. “This should give us a big wakeup call,” she said.
“The path to protecting our families from price hikes is exactly what you are doing every day,” McCarthy told the conference. “It is clean energy.”
Congress needs to scale up wind and solar deployments and lower the cost of electric vehicles, she said.
“The benefits from these investments are just going to be enormous, They are game changing,” she said.
Of the Biden administration, McCarthy said, “We are going to do what we can, we are not done. The president is not going to back down on his interests and efforts to pursue clean energy.”
Biden will talk to Manchin, she said, adding that she is “optimistic but not naive” about the prospects for moving forward.
The discussions about provisions in the Build Back Better proposal were “so high level,” and need to move to talking about what it means for a family, she said.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, R-Ore., also said he believes that after the Senate votes on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and takes a two-week break over Easter there will be an opportunity to turn to the reconciliation bill.
Senators will return from the break having heard their constituents say they should take action on reducing prescription drug costs and achieving clean energy, Wyden said.
Wyden said he believes there are 50 votes for the clean energy provisions in the reconciliation bill and doesn’t believe that Manchin will “unravel“ the clean energy provisions as long as there is a “technology neutral system.“
Wyden also said the war in Ukraine shows that the United States cannot get off its dependence on fossil fuels fast enough.
Key Senate and House Democratic aides and lobbyists said during a panel discussion they too are optimistic about a reconciliation bill but noted that members of Congress up for re-election are under pressure to help Americans deal with inflation in the short run.
Bobby Andres, a senior policy adviser to Wyden, said events in Europe “are actually spurring a desire to move on an energy package” but he noted that there is no agreement on how to move forward.
Andres also pointed out that the House bill passed in November and has been “sitting out there.“
Jon Bosworth, who works for House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said, that the House is “ready and waiting” for the Senate to act. House members, he said, are waiting “to vote for something and get it across the finish line,” but the number of legislative days is declining.
It’s hard to speculate about how individual members would react to a reconciliation bill with only a small social program, but 90 House members including progressives have said they favor a reconciliation package with climate legislation at the center of it, Bosworth said.
Katherine Gensler, a vice president of government affairs and marketing at Arveon, said, “speed is of the essence” because a reconciliation bill offers better long term opportunities than a tax extenders package at the end of the year.
Will Conkling, a data energy supply official at Google, said that “the imperative to pass a bill like this is so clear now,” because national security has been added to long-term considerations including the environment.
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