Author Archives: Allison Cunningham

Allison Cunningham What do the 2014 Midterm Elections Mean for Natural Gas Customers?

On Nov. 4, the American public chose the political leaders from statehouses to our nation’s capital who will help guide our country’s energy policy for the next two years. While political seats may have shifted, the core needs of the American public, including the need for leaders who can reach across the party aisle to forge workable solutions, remain the same. As America seeks leadership and action on the complex trifecta that is our economy, our environment and our energy security, AGA and the nation’s local natural gas utilities will work with policymakers and stakeholders throughout the country to find ways to secure a role for natural gas as the foundation of a clean and secure energy future.

The 2014 midterm elections ushered in significant changes for the political makeup of Congress. The Senate majority was returned to the Republicans for the first time since 2006, and in the House of Representatives, Republicans simultaneously expanded their controlling majority. While Election Day has come and gone, there are still seats left to be determined in some cases. From runoffs to recounts, the country will be watching the races in places like Alaska and Louisiana for weeks to come.

Image Courtesy of the National Journal.

Image Courtesy of the National Journal.

 While the majority of elections are over, the process of determining who will fill committee leadership posts is just beginning, including those of committees with oversight over natural gas utility issues. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is expected to retain his gavel in the next Congress. With the Senate majority moving into the hands of Republicans, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski will take the Chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Her predecessor in that role, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), hits the campaign trail again leading into a December 6 runoff. On the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) brings many years of experience dealing with natural gas tax legislation, which may help guide policy action on that front.

The votes have been cast and it is clearer than ever that Americans are ready for their elected officials to get to work passing meaningful legislation on a broad range of issues. Regardless of electoral outcomes, America’s domestic abundance of natural gas offers bipartisan solutions for improving the economy, the environment and energy security. AGA and America’s local natural gas utilities will continue the work to elevate the safety and reliability of natural gas delivery as we help our customers find ways to save money and reduce their carbon footprint by using natural gas even more efficiently in their homes and businesses. We will work to help our low-income customers meet their energy needs and work within our local communities to give back and improve the lives of those we serve. We will continue to strive to further upgrade, modernize and expand the more than 2.4 million miles of pipeline that make up the nation’s natural gas delivery system, helping to ensure that our natural gas infrastructure is robust and resilient to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. And we will work with elected officials to foster a policy environment that allows all Americans to access the economic, environmental and energy benefits of natural gas for decades to come.

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Allison Cunningham Midterm Elections: Energy Industry Implications

With a few days left before the November midterm elections, polls remain down to the wire in many races. As Republicans look to make moderate gains in the House of Representatives and vie for control of the Senate majority we may see people casting votes that reflect low presidential approval ratings and nominal support for the Affordable Care Act. This is nothing new, as voting against the party and policies of an incumbent president is a phenomenon seen in five of the last six post-WWII second-term midterm elections.

While Ebola and threats from ISIL continue to move to the forefront of voters’ minds, a few key races have serious implications for energy legislation in the next Congress.

The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, finds himself in one of the closest and most expensive re-election races in the country. In Kentucky, President Obama’s carbon rule hits particularly close to home, with McConnell (R) and opponent Allison Lundergran-Grimes (D) both vying to be seen as the most “coal-friendly” candidate.

In Colorado, Congressman Cory Gardner (R) is running against incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D), in a race featuring several Republican ads focused on energy issues. In an October debate, Gardner and Udall exchanged heated words regarding whether or not a carbon tax was helpful in curbing climate change from man-made emissions. When it comes to regulating oil and gas operations, Gardner has sponsored House bills to increase access to domestic land for oil production and has sponsored a bill to streamline the permitting process for drilling on the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf. Both Gardner and Udall have sponsored bills aimed at to streamlining the permitting processes for liquefied natural gas exports.

Finally, the Senate race with potential to have the biggest impact on the energy industry – the Louisiana Senate race – may not be decided until a month after Election Day. With incumbent and current Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Mary Landrieu (D) facing Congressman Bill Cassidy (R) in a tight race, polling data continues to point to a December 6 runoff, which could be impacted by Southeastern Conference Football, if the Louisiana State University Tigers play in the SEC Championship game on the same day.

Though some key races may drag into December and January, both Republicans and the White House are beginning to brainstorm plans for the next Congress. As House Republicans look to expand their majority, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has begun publicly discussing plans for working with a Republican-controlled Senate, naming energy issues as a top priority. One idea brought forth by McCarthy is the possibility of paying for highway spending through drilling on public lands.

Meanwhile, the White House is beginning to consider what it would look like to work with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. White House aides have mentioned tax reform, infrastructure, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, early childhood education and sentencing reform as areas for a possible collaboration. Senate Republicans claim to be ready to work together on trade, infrastructure spending and sentencing reform.

Let us know below what you think will happen in the elections and what that means for energy policy going forward, and don’t forget to get out and vote on November 4.

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Allison Cunningham House and Senate Return from Recess

Today, the House and Senate return to Washington after a five week district work period, readying themselves for a busy month of September. With both houses currently expected to be in Session two to three more legislative weeks before they recess to hit the campaign trail, much of the legislative agenda will be driven by upcoming elections and world events.

With escalating threats from the terrorist group ISIL, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has made clear his desire to hear from the Administration on their plans for addressing ISIL as a possible national security threat. This could lead to Republican-led messaging bills in the House of Representatives calling for the President to make his strategy known to the American people.

Of course, it is an election year, and it is clear from the Majority Leader’s September Agenda, that the Republican-led House will also work on a series of bills aimed at ensuring electoral victory in the fall. The plan spells out a number of bills aimed at making the economy, jobs, healthcare, and gasoline prices the focus of the September legislative period. Fortunately for the natural gas industry, this leaves ample opportunity for meaningful energy legislation, including bills aimed at providing states with the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing, to expedite the export of liquefied natural gas to our allies, and to modernize the review process for new natural gas permit applications.

Aside from an anticipated adjournment date of September 23, the Senate forecast remains slightly less defined. While also working to protect vulnerable incumbents, the Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to work on bills increasing the minimum wage, regulate campaign spending, allow for student-loan refinancing, and reverse the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding employee contraceptive coverage. There is also a chance the Senate may move to reauthorize the Export-Import bank, or take up defense authorization, legislation to curb corporate inversions, or update satellite television broadcast rules.

Perhaps the most pressing business in both chambers is that of the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told House Republicans he plans to pass a simple CR in order to avoid threats of a government shutdown. With the current government funding bill set to expire on October 1, this would shift any major spending decisions until after Election Day. Senate Democrats are rumored to be preparing for a CR as well, which at present appears to be a clean re-authorization at current funding levels.

As with any government funding bill, things are often not as simple as they appear, with the possibility of additional funding being included in a CR. This may include measures to fund the Export-Import Bank as well as funding for the ongoing border crisis. Though there are rumors of a possible government shutdown, that scenario remains unlikely, as legislators in both chambers hope to finish up legislative business and return to their districts for one last campaign push before Election Day.

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