WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) remarks at the first markup of the New Year to consider several energy bills.
As Prepared for Delivery
This morning, we will mark up a series of energy and efficiency related bills, which include measures to improve energy efficiency in federal facilities, to ensure more effective federal energy regulatory decisions, and to implement certain sections of the Majority’s proposed energy infrastructure package.
All of the measures touch on important policy areas that deserve Committee attention. And we should work together, as we have in past Congresses, on these energy and infrastructure matters to identify appropriate legislative changes that will make our energy systems more efficient, cleaner, and supportive of a prosperous economy.
Several of the bills we will consider fit this approach and were developed collaboratively, with established bipartisan support.
For example, the expansion of energy savings performance contracting in federal facilities, as proposed by Mr. Welch and Mr. Kinzinger, promises to benefit taxpayers and the environment over the long term. This represents the type of policy grounded in innovation, as opposed to regulation, that offers the surest path to more efficient use of energy.
It is also helpful this morning to move to reauthorize programs to assist tribal energy management, to expand incentives for more efficient hydroelectric power, and to ensure that FERC employs the most qualified staff for efficient and timely decision-making. These are the types of measures that clear the way for newer, cleaner energy infrastructure.
Several of the bills before us, however, would have benefited from closer scrutiny in focused legislative hearings, where we could have examined more closely whether the specific proposals would effectively address the problems we are trying to solve.
Consider, for example, grid modernization, a goal we all share, and a topic that has been a priority under both my and Fred Upton’s chairmanships. Legislation proposed this morning would authorize the Secretary of Energy to provide a billion dollars in financial support towards grid modernization technologies and practices. But is establishing a new federal funding program really the best way to accelerate a more modern, reliable, secure electric grid?
We know that the industry itself has been significantly increasing its capital spending on grid and transmission infrastructure in recent years. For example, the investor-owned utilities spent some $119 billion in 2018 and were on track in the fourth quarter last year to invest $135 billion in 2019, according to the available data. This represents tens of billions more in spending than just five or six years ago.
At the May hearing on the LIFT Act, from which this grid legislation is derived, we heard that siting and permitting represent major barriers to more rapid deployment of the modern electricity and other energy projects. Reducing regulatory burdens and streamlining permitting sound more like the kind of policies to get where we want to go—rather than just increasing taxpayer spending.
The same may be said for the proposal to establish major spending and other initiatives to deploy electric vehicles, EV infrastructure, related federal EV mandates. The bill sponsored by Chairman Rush is significantly expanded from what was in the LIFT Act and deserves careful consideration.
EV’s may prove to be transformational technology, among a range of other potential new technologies. But from testimony in May and during a clean-transportation hearing in September, we have learned that policies for electrification must navigate a number of concerns—not least of which is what does this mean for the American consumer, rate payers, and taxpayers.
For example, we heard concerns that locking in EV spending through utility rates could lock in monopolistic spending on infrastructure that should instead benefit from open market competition. And we have not yet fully examined concerns about the environmental impacts and the broader energy policy issues associated with a massive federal drive to EVs.
In short, a legislative hearing and regular order on the specifics of this bill, which we have not conducted, would help us understand the various implications of this expansive $50 billion proposal, which was made public less than two days ago. We must make sure any electrification policy will work for the American consumer and taxpayer.
And I am hopeful we can work with our colleagues across the aisle on these other measures, so that we can target the real problems in our energy and electric infrastructure, and not just authorize more money as the solution to our future energy systems.