Chris Kearney | NSWA Vice President, Governmental Affairs
When the 117th Congress convenes in January, educating new members and staff about the facts of the industry will be timely and important. One key step in that direction will be updating the percentage depletion study – which is currently under way through the NSWA – as well as other relevant studies and data. One relevant update that has recently become available is a draft of the DOE study on the impacts of methane in the Illinois Basin. https://iprb.org/blog/2020/draft-doe-study-indicates-illinois-basin-oil-production-methane-emissions.
The headline from the draft: methane emissions from marginal production sites are “inherently low.”
The data from this study, among others, along with work of the various coalitions of which NSWA is an active participant, will be vital in demonstrating the value of our industry to policy makers and the public.
LAME DUCK SESSION – RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
COVID Relief Legislation and Omnibus Appropriations
The House and Senate continue to address unfinished business of the outgoing 116th Congress – with primary negotiations focused on the next COVID relief package and FY 2021 Omnibus appropriations bill.
Adjournment by both houses is currently scheduled for this Friday, December 18. Though, there is growing expectations that to finish work on COVID and the spending package, work will likely spill into next week.
Currently, Congress is operating under a funding mechanism known as a “Continuing Resolution” (CR), which, in the absence of enacted individual agency funding bills, provides authority for the entire federal government to operate at the FY 2020 spending levels. The current CR expires on December 18th.
Regarding efforts to pass another COVID relief bill, for the past several months, the key differences between the two chambers have been over how much “emergency spending” to provide – the House position has been supporting a $2+ trillion package and the Senate version is around $500 billion. However, the logjam over those differences may finally be breaking. A bipartisan group of Senators and House members agreed over the weekend to a two-part legislative package: 1) a $758 billion bill which includes a variety of elements including unemployment insurance, small-business relief, money for education, and vaccine distribution; 2) a second bill, including $160 billion for state and local governments as well as language aimed at addressing liability protection for businesses and universities for actions during COVID.
It is notable that the package includes a separate bill for state and local government funding as well as language addressing the liability provisions. Both issues have been at the heart of dispute over a larger package for months – the GOP generally supports liability protection and opposes state local funding and Democrats generally vice-versa.
A two-step approach may allow members to cast votes for – or against – provisions of their choice (i.e. they can vote for the spending package and still vote no state and local for example).
Despite the progress by the bipartisan group, and early support for the package by some congressional leaders, not all are on board as of yet – notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. However, discussions are ongoing and they remain very fluid – with the outcome very much in doubt.
Regarding negotiations on the omnibus appropriations bill, they too remain active and fluid. Should they not be able to reach agreement this week, it is likely another CR will be passed – possibly as long as three months – which would move the decision making to a new set of players – a new Congress and a new Administration.
Regardless of how discussions conclude in the Lame Duck, once matters related to the appropriations bills are completed, Congress is expected to bring the 116th Congress to a close and head home for the holidays.